Business leaders' anger over latest Brexit impasse

Business leaders express anger and frustration at politicians inability to break the Brexit deadlock and fear over the impacts of a no-deal.

Houses of Parliament
UK business leaders have expressed deepening frustration after MPs voted down the government's plan for a withdrawal agreement with the European Union for a second time.

Parliament rejects May's plan 

Parliament rejected the government's plan by 391 votes to 242 on Tuesday evening and were expected to approve a motion on Wednesday evening ruling out a no-deal Brexit. On Thursday, the House of Commons is also due to vote on a motion to delay the nation's exit from the EU, which is currently scheduled for March 29.Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said, “Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it.“Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent. It should be as short as realistically possible and backed by a clear plan.“Conservatives must consign their red lines to history, while Labour must come to the table with a genuine commitment to solutions. It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus.”

Business leaders argue for Article 50 extension

Ms Fairbairn, along with other business leaders, was also deeply unimpressed with the government's plans, published on Wednesday, for a new tariff regime on EU products in case a no-deal Brexit becomes a reality.The new levies would increase prices on EU imports such as cars and many food products, but tariffs would be slashed on goods coming in from outside the EU. In special arrangements for Northern Ireland, temporary import tariffs would not apply to EU goods crossing the border from the Irish RepublicMs Fairbairn told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, "This tells us everything that is wrong with a no-deal scenario. What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century being imposed on this country with no consultation with business, no time to prepare."This is no way to run a country. What we potentially are going to see is this imposition of new terms of trade at the same time as business is blocked out of its closest trading partner."

Tariffs will create winners and losers

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the tariffs would create "winners and losers across UK industry overnight" and potentially cost the UK leverage in future trade talks."The abruptness of changes to tariff rates in the event of a no-deal exit from the EU would be an unwelcome shock to many of the businesses affected," he said. "There has not been enough consultation, preparation or planning to support the firms and communities that could find themselves at the end of a sudden shift in tariffs."On the defeat of Mr May's Brexit deal, Dr Marshall said, “Businesses have warned time and again that the United Kingdom is not ready to face the consequences of a messy and disorderly exit from the European Union.“Businesses have been failed over and over again by Westminster in recent months, but allowing a messy and disorderly exit on March 29 would take political negligence to new extremes.”Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUK organisation, commented, "The UK leaving the EU without a deal would be an own goal of historic proportions for the UK and the EU. This is absolutely not in the interests of customers or the wider economy."MPs must now say ‘no to no-deal’ and the UK and the EU must urgently return to the negotiating table. We need a rapid agreement on the way forward to protect customers and jobs. This is a vital part of keeping the U.K. at the top of the global premier league of international financial centres - something that is in the interests of customers at home and across Europe.”

Leaders emphasise the risks of no-deal to business

Edwin Morgan, interim director-general of the Institute of Directors, added, “Our politicians have yet again failed to find a way to break the impasse. They are becoming adept at saying what they don’t want, but it’s still hard to see where the desire for compromise lies."Now that we have confirmation that parliament will have its opportunity to reject no deal on March 29, it is essential that political leaders on all sides look beyond party lines to find a way to move the country forward.“If an extension is sought, both the government and the opposition must state in precise terms what they are hoping to achieve from it. Recurring short extensions aren’t an appetising prospect for businesses."While business leaders will be eager to see the details on tariffs and the Northern Ireland border, the government’s belated contingency planning and lack of transparency have made it almost impossible for many of them to prepare adequately for no deal by March 29.”Enter the 2019 Relocate Awards in-text bannerSubscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory

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