Businesses “watching in horror” as no-deal Brexit risk rises

As the government ramps up its planning for a “no-deal” brexit the UK’s five leading business groups have issued a strongly worded joint statement imploring politicians to avoid such a scenario.

The CBI, EEF, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesss and the British Chambers of Commerce – which between them represent hundreds of thousands of firms across the UK – claim that businesses have been “watching in horror” as politicians have focused on internal disputes rather than the practical steps that are required to protect the economy.

The group warns that whilst many companies are actively preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario, they are doing so at considerable cost. Meanwhile there are, they claim, hundreds of thousands who have yet to start planning.

The statement adds that firms are pausing or diverting investment that should be boosting productivity, innovation, jobs and pay into stockpiling goods or materials, diverting cross border trade and moving offices, factories and therefore jobs and tax revenues out of the UK

“With just 100 days to go, the suggestion that ‘no-deal’ can be ‘managed’ is not a credible proposition,” it reads. “Businesses would face massive new customs costs and tariffs. Disruption at ports could destroy carefully built supply chains. From broadcasters, to insurance brokers, to our financial services – the UK’s world-leading services sector will be needlessly disadvantaged, and many professional qualifications will be unrecognised across the EU.”

“The responsibility to find a way forward now rests directly with 650 MPs in Parliament,” it continues. “Nobody wants to prolong the uncertainty, but everyone must remember that businesses and communities need time to adapt to future changes. As the UK’s leading business groups, we are asking MPs from all parties to return to their constituencies over Christmas and talk to their local business communities. We hope that they will listen and remember that when they return to Parliament, the future course of our economy will be in their hands.”

The message has been echoed by a number of other business groups, including the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA) which represents UK suppliers of manufacturing technology equipment. “All of our members have either international suppliers or international customers, frequently both, and they need the confidence that they will be able to work with them on a secure basis in the future, said the organisation’s CEO James Selka. “Politicians of all persuasions need to think very hard about businesses and jobs in their constituencies that will be at risk from the recklessness of No Deal.”

The latest flurry of warnings follows a similar statement last month from car industry trade-body SMMT, which published a survey revealing that three quarters of UK automotive firms fear that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will threaten their future viability.

“Leaving without a deal would be catastrophic,” commented SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, “plants will close, jobs will be lost. We need a deal now, and we need an ambitious deal for the future that guarantees frictionless trade with our most important market – nothing else will do, and we urge all parties to remember what’s at stake.”