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Rejection of Brexit Deal Raises Questions About Future of U.S. Trade

Published Mar 29, 2019 by Maggie Martin

Friday’s conversation about Brexit at the Greater Houston Partnership could not have been more timely.

Just hours before Houston attorney Lawrence Hanson took the microphone at Partnership Tower, British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan for a third time.

“It’s truly a very interesting time because things are changing so quickly,” said Hanson. 

Hanson specializes in international trade and import and export regulations. He spoke as part of the Partnership's Business Beyond Borders “Go Beyond Series.”

“People care about this because of the calamity of a poorly done exit.” said Hanson. “It will change the way we do business, it will affect jobs, it will affect supply chains.”

Hanson said there are a number of uncertainties the lie ahead, including the relationship between the U.K. and the E.U., tariffs, immigration, and trade.

“What do you do about free trade agreements?” said Hanson.

Last July, The New York Times reported the European Commission warned “Britain’s withdrawal would have a significant impact on supply chains, trade, transportation, and personnel.” The publication also reported “countries that conduct a lot of trade with Europe’s second-largest economy face a particular challenge: How to manage the massive flow of TVs, car parts, drugs and every other product that cross their borders to get to and from Britain.”

The potential impacts on trade could have implications here in Greater Houston, one of the largest international trading hubs in the Americas. According to the latest data from the Greater Houston Partnership’s Research division, the Houston-Galveston Customs District handled nearly 290 million metric tons of goods and commodities valued at $233.3 billion in 2018. The U.K. was the region’s 8th leading trade partner last year, with goods valued at $7.3 billion moving between the two regions. The U.K. accounted for more than three percent of the Houston region’s total trade. 

Hanson says with no deal, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds for the U.K. and its relationship with the U.S. “The final takeaway is we should all be very worried. We’ve never had a situation like this.”

The next critical date is April 12. The European Commission said a no-deal Brexit on that date was now likely. “The EU…is now fully prepared for a  ‘no deal’ scenario on 12 April.”

Learn more about the Partnership's Business Beyond Borders program here.

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