Get busy or jobs will go, May told

Manchester Evening News - - NATIONAL -

EURO­PEAN busi­ness lead­ers warned Theresa May that jobs and in­vest­ment in the UK could be lost un­less ur­gent progress is made in the Brexit talks.

The Prime Min­is­ter was told that busi­nesses are “ex­tremely con­cerned” at the slow pace of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Brus­sels and it was vi­tal that trade talks were given the green light in De­cem­ber’s sum­mit of EU lead­ers.

Mrs May was also urged to keep the UK within the cus­toms union and sin­gle mar­ket in a tran­si­tional ar­range­ment af­ter the for­mal split from Brus­sels in March 2019 – and to se­cure agree­ment on that by Christ­mas.

The Prime Min­is­ter told the gath­er­ing of busi­ness lead­ers from across the EU that she wanted to agree an im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod “as soon as pos­si­ble”.

Emma Marce­gaglia, pres­i­dent of the lob­by­ing group Busi­nessEurope, said: “Busi­ness is ex­tremely con­cerned with the slow pace of ne­go­ti­a­tions and the lack of progress only one month be­fore the de­ci­sive De­cem­ber Euro­pean Coun­cil.”

Af­ter the meet­ing in Down­ing Street she said: “We don’t want un­cer­tainty, we are very con­cerned. We know that if com­pa­nies don’t see cer­tainty prob­a­bly they will have a contingency plan and prob­a­bly they will leave the UK, or they will in­vest less.”

Ms Marce­gaglia said both the UK and Brus­sels had to work to se­cure a deal.

“My view is that they both have to work more,” she said, but be­cause it was the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave, it was for Mrs May to put a “real, con­crete pro­posal” on the ta­ble.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try (CBI) as well as or­gan­i­sa­tions from Ger­many, France and other EU na­tions were present at the talks with Mrs May, Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Greg Clark and Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis.

Mean­while, Mr Davis has an­nounced that MPs will be given a take it or leave it vote on any Brexit deal cov­er­ing cit­i­zens rights, the so-called di­vorce bill and a tran­si­tion pe­riod.

The Brexit Sec­re­tary said any with­drawal agree­ment the Gov­ern­ment reaches with the EU will only hold if MPs and peers ap­prove a new piece of leg­is­la­tion to put it into Bri­tish law.

But he also con­firmed that if the With­drawal Agree­ment and Im­ple­men­ta­tion Bill is voted down by MPs, the UK will still leave the EU on March 29 2019, with­out a deal.

The move was seen as an at­tempted con­ces­sion to Tory rebels ahead of votes this week on the sep­a­rate EU (With­drawal) Bill, also known as the re­peal bill, with the Gov­ern­ment fac­ing po­ten­tial de­feat on plans to guar­an­tee MPs a “mean­ing­ful vote” on the deal. But it trig­gered an im­me­di­ate back­lash from po­ten­tial Tory rebels.

Heidi Allen said Mr Davis’s at­tempt at a con­ces­sion was “point­less” as the Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to amend the With­drawal Bill to say Britain’s mem­ber­ship of the EU will for­mally end at 11pm GMT on March 29 2019.

Theresa May

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