Demand for clarity on Brexit
CABINET infighting over Brexit must end or it will cause economic damage that will hit the poorest hardest, a prominent business leader has warned.
In a strongly worded message to Theresa May’s top team, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president Paul Drechsler said he was frustrated by a lack of unity which could derail progress on securing a deal when the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019.
There would be “economic consequences” as a result of the “uncertainty and messing around”, he said.
Research by the business group found 60% of firms would begin implementing contingency plans for a “no deal” Brexit by the end of March 2018 unless progress has been made on guaranteeing transitional arrangements will be in place on the day the UK leaves the bloc.
Some 10% of the 306 member firms surveyed by the CBI had already started taking those steps, with a further 50% reaching that point over the next few months.
“By the end of March, 60% of people will have taken decisions that buy them a ticket to somewhere else,” Mr Drechsler said.
Some would choose to move overseas or hire more staff in EU countries but other firms could increase investment in the UK because of fears that supplies from the bloc would face barriers.
While big businesses could hedge their bets and adapt to changing conditions, small firms were struggling when “every week there’s another episode that creates some more excitement and mayhem” in the Brexit “soap opera”.
Mr Drechsler told the Press Association: “I think now is the time we need our Cabinet, our Government united – day in, day out, week in, week out, month in, month out until this is sorted out.
“There is no more space for confusion, for variation, for alternative points of view. We need clarity on transition ASAP.”
In a stark message about the impact of political divisions, he said: “I am saddened by the fact that there are going to be economic consequences of this uncertainty and messing about.
“And the people who will be affected most by this – be in no doubt – are the poorest people in our society and the smallest firms. “That’s what I’m upset about.” ■ ‘Cardiff and Edinburgh must be in on Brexit talks’ – page 8