Toespraak staatssecretaris Keijzer tijdens NBCC Brexit Forum in Den Haag

Toespraak staatssecretaris Keijzer (EZK)  tijdens het NBCC Brexit Forum  'Preparing your company for Brexit', in Den Haag op 13 september 2018.

Deze toespraak is alleen beschikbaar in het Engels.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for being here.

And I’d like to thank the NBCC especially, for inviting me to speak to its members today.

Let me start by asking you a question. When was the last time you truly regretted something?

Speaking for myself,  it was only last week, when I wished I’d brought an umbrella with me. In a rainy country like the Netherlands, it’s always worth having one handy. The British attendees will know what I mean. We’re both from a country with lovely weather…if you’re a duck.

Anyway, somehow, I always manage to lose my umbrella. So I only take one with me if I know it’s going to rain. Last week the forecast was unclear.
But the moment I got out of the car, the downpour began. And I thought: if only…

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to talk today about anticipating rainy days. About anticipating that time in the future when you may put your hand to your head and say to yourself: if I only I’d done this, if only I’d done that…

And this is how we should think about the future now. About the point on the horizon after the UK has left the EU.

So much is still unclear about the future trade relations between the Netherlands and the UK. The EU negotiations are not exactly plain sailing. As we speak, the deadline is approaching. And so is the possibility of a cliff-edge Brexit. Time is running out.

So it would be wise to anticipate regrets. And I know that’s not easy. Because, right now, multiple scenarios are still possible.

Most of you are already taking the right steps. You’ve completed the Brexit Impact Scan. You’ve looked at the consequences for your IT systems, data-sharing,customs declarations and legal challenges. You’ve scrutinised your finances. Some companies have already set a deadline for preparing a ‘cliff-edge’ plan, and a deadline for when they will execute it.

Now that’s preparation!

As entrepreneurs, you know that inconvenience and uncertainty are part of your everyday life. Even so, it feels like we’re running a race without a clear finish line.

The Dutch government is running that same race with you. This is unknown territory for us, too. And for the other 26 EU countries that are trying to find the best outcome.

Let me say up front that the Netherlands will do everything in its power to reach a good future agreement, and prevent a no deal situation. The Dutch government has a vital responsibility to help ensure that Mr. Barnier negotiates the best deal possible.

But in preparing for Brexit we’re not entirely dependent on Mr. Barnier and Prime Minister May. In Brussels, my Dutch colleagues and I are working hard to ensure the best outcome too. For Dutch entrepreneurs and for the UK companies with whom we do business.

There are many hurdles in this chaotic race. For example, after Brexit it will become more difficult to share data. In the digital economy, data is the new oil, and it works best when it can flow freely.

After Brexit, it might cost more to use digital services, like cloud computing, connected cars and e-commerce across the Channel. Dutch companies who exchange data with the UK can also expect additional compliance costs once the UK leaves the EU.
These are the kind of complex hurdles we may find in our path over the next few months.

The entrepreneurs here today are already doing a good job. But not every company is on track. According to research we carried out this summer, 46 per cent of companies are not preparing at all. For any outcome.

To help entrepreneurs with this, the Dutch government has launched various instruments, like our Brexit Desk website and Brexit Impact Scan.
So far, the website has been visited more than 18.000 times, and more than 10.000 Impact Scans have been completed. That’s a lot, but it should be more!

I also hope you’ll allow smaller and less experienced companies to benefit from your knowledge of trade with third countries, as part of their preparing for Brexit. In other words, I encourage you to become ‘Brexit buddies’ with these companies.

Yesterday, we - Jacco and I - visited a company that has already extended a helping hand to a smaller business – a great initiative that I fully support.

Let me show you what I saw there:

[video: ‘Brexit buddies’]

I applaud Mr. Brockhoff and Mr. van den Berk.

I really hope you’ll do the same: find a Brexit buddy, or be open to requests.

And I hope we can learn from each other today as well. We’ll have to work hard. This isn’t brunch time – it’s crunch time.

But if we work hard, and we’re open about the hurdles we face, we can find a successful way forward. It certainly isn’t all doom and gloom ahead.
A changing trade climate will bring new opportunities. Rotterdam has claimed it wants to be the best-prepared port on the continent. The Netherlands, as the UK’s nearest neighbour across the pond, can be its prime gateway to Europe.

Knowing how to prepare for this shift means being ahead of your competitors and trying to get ready for any outcome – even a no-deal scenario.
Let’s anticipate – or better yet, prevent – any future regrets. And at the same time, let’s look for new opportunities.

We can hope for sunshine, but we should bring along an umbrella just in case.

Thank you.