:: Policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, Catherine McGuinness, said: “Today’s Brexit white paper is a real blow for the UK’s financial and related professional services sector.
“With looser trade ties to Europe, the financial and related professional services sector will be less able to create jobs, generate tax and support growth across the wider economy. It’s that simple.
“The sector has been clear since the referendum: Equivalence in its current form is not fit for purpose so any “enhancements” to this regime would have to be substantial.
“As the EU’s gateway to capital, the UK is a significant trading partner for the bloc. It’s in the interests of households and businesses on both sides of the Channel that an ambitious future trading relationship, covering services as well as goods, is secured.
“Failing to secure such a deal would put up unnecessary trade barriers and runs the risk of fragmentation of financial markets, increasing costs and reducing choice for consumers.”
:: Miles Celic, chief executive officer of TheCityUK, said: “The overriding issue for financial and related professional services firms is the ability to continue serving customers and clients.
“Mutual recognition would have been the best way to achieve this. It’s therefore regrettable and frustrating that this approach has been dropped before even making it to the negotiating table.”
:: Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “At last, businesses have a more comprehensive understanding of the government’s aspirations for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
“This vision should not have taken two years and three weeks to emerge, but it is nevertheless a welcome starting point for businesses.
“Momentum and pace are now needed to translate ambition into answers to the real-world, practical questions that businesses face.
“Even with the welcome direction of travel in the white paper, companies still don’t know how they’ll be paying VAT, how they can move people between offices, or whether goods will get across borders with a minimum of fuss.
“It is incumbent on the two sides to work pragmatically and productively on the nuts-and-bolts detail of the future relationship over the coming weeks, drawing on business experience and expertise.”
:: Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “This white paper puts some vital meat on the bones of the Chequers plan.
“More specifics on its proposed customs arrangements, and its proposed free trade area in goods with the EU will be welcomed by business leaders who have delayed Brexit preparations because of a lack of detail on the future partnership.
“It should also give EU negotiators less scope to claim that they cannot push ahead because there is no plan from the UK.
“We look forward to comprehensive engagement with the government on turning these ideas into practical realities that work for firms engaged in international trade.
“However, the government has missed a trick by holding back on detail in several areas. Clarity about its approach to VAT arrangements, which are crucial to achieving its aim of frictionless trade with the EU, is in short supply.
“The paper also implies that businesses and individuals won’t have access to any new dispute resolution mechanism relating to enforcement of the agreement.
“Given the unprecedentedly close economic arrangement the UK is hoping for with the EU as a third country, this should be in there.
“The government has provided more clarity on its approach to financial services, and we look forward to them doing the same for the rest of the services sector.
“But the biggest question mark looms over what will replace freedom of movement. The government is right to prioritise an ambitious scheme on labour mobility with the EU, but businesses need to work from concrete proposals.
“We would urge the Government to bring forward its plans for post-Brexit migration, which should be at the heart of our future economic partnership with Europe.”
:: Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, Mike Cherry, said: “After more than two years since the EU referendum, we finally have a Brexit destination that government hopes to negotiate.
“We hope that the EU welcomes this negotiating position and does not dismiss it out of hand.
“With just 37 weeks before we leave the EU, we need to see tangible and comprehensive details on these proposals and how they will impact small businesses.
“As we draw closer to the exit date, it is welcome to see that the government has stepped up preparations for a ‘no-deal’ scenario.
“The government must look to ramp up the conversation with small businesses to find out how these proposals will actually affect the day to day running of their business.
“If there are to be any negative impacts, government must come up with solutions to soften these and ensure that small businesses are not damaged.”
:: Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The British Retail Consortium has made it clear that a frictionless customs system is vital for retail businesses so it is encouraging to have seen some progress within the white paper, but the retail industry still needs clarity on how this will be facilitated.
“A well organised, functioning frictionless customs arrangement is essential to ensure our fragile food supply chains are maintained to allow consumers to continue access the choice and value of goods they are accustomed to.”