I understand concerns about the future of your business and employment. The outbreak of the coronavirus has been difficult for business owners and workers across the UK as well as Europe.
That is why I am glad that the Government has provided almost £300 billion in guarantees to help businesses and employees during the outbreak. Over 10 million people have also been supported through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and a Jobs Retention Bonus is encouraging businesses to retain furloughed staff. The new Kickstart scheme will pay the wages of new young employees for 6 months. Many businesses are now re-opening but the Government is working closely with those that have yet to do so and it is keeping financial support schemes under review.
Negotiations continued during the outbreak and have now intensified. The Government is seeking to negotiate a friendly relationship with the EU which reflects our status as an independent sovereign state and which is based on free trade. It is looking for a Free Trade Agreement based on precedent and similar to those the EU has already reached with other countries such as Canada.
Differences remain because the EU has so far asked for the UK to stay bound to its laws and rules in many areas. This is not something I believe the UK can accept. I feel that it is important that the EU recognises this. Once it does, progress will be able to be made.
As you will be aware, the deadline for agreeing an extension to the transition period has passed. This means that the UK will leave with either a Canada-style free trade agreement or on the terms of the 2019 deal. The 2019 deal will give a trading relationship similar to the one Australia enjoys with the EU.
Either way we will be leaving the single market and customs union. Businesses will need to prepare themselves and their employees for life outside both at the end of 2020, and many have already done so.