Business leaders condemn Brexit vote 'pantomime'

Business leaders express frustration and anger due to lack of clarity following no vote on Theresa May's withdrawl agreement, they say MPs must find a way to avoid no-deal to protect jobs and the economy.

UK Parliament at night
Business leaders expressed growing frustration and anger on Wednesday after MPs overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit withdrawal deal agreed between the UK and European Union after two years of negotiations.

Theresa May loses ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 230 vote margin

The plan was rejected by a 230-vote margin in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, with both Brexiteers and Remain supporters uniting to inflict the largest defeat ever suffered by a British government in modern times.Prime Minister Theresa May will now have to present a revised plan to parliament on Monday although it is still far from certain it will be approved by MPs, let alone Brussels.Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Greg Clark made a conference call to the leaders of British business groups after the vote to discuss the next steps but there was, apparently, little progress made.

Call between Ministers and business reaffirms commitment to avoid no-deal

"There was very little guidance on what happens next," according to Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation. "The tone of the conversation was very serious. I do believe those ministers on the call have an absolute commitment to trying to avoid a no-deal Brexit."We are calling for an extension to the transition period in order for parliament to decide what our next steps are - whether that is a new deal, a referendum, an orderly exit from the EU without a deal at a later date, or a general election."Stephen Phipson, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said, “After two years of negotiations, Westminster has failed to deliver a workable plan for Brexit. Parliament’s pantomime now continues while business suffers impossible uncertainty, which will only worsen  investment and the worrying business climate.“EEF has been consistent: no deal would be disastrous for UK manufacturing and its 2.7 million jobs. The government and parliament must act collectively, swiftly and decisively in the best interest of the people and the economy. The time for theatre is over.”Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, described the vote as a collective failure of the country's political leaders. "With only a few weeks to go, we are staring down the barrel of no deal," he said.“As things stand, UK law says we will leave on March 29, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?"

Calls for MPs to work together and show leadership to protect UK economy

Mr Martin said MPs needed to find a way to put aside their differences and come to an agreement because, with Brexit looming, businesses "still do not know basic information such as the processes they would need to comply with for day one of no-deal".Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, said, "Recruiters have been clear that Britain needs a deal with a clear transition period and a sensible approach to EU immigration, which will help to calm economic fears."Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that every UK company would now feel a no-deal Brexit was "hurtling closer" and that a new withdrawal plan was needed immediately."This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed to protect the UK's economy," she said.Miles Celic, CEO of the London financial sector lobby group, TheCityUK, said the Commons vote would only prolong uncertainty and continue to depress business confidence.

Risks of disruption and financial instability in UK and EU

"The lack of clarity on the path to an orderly Brexit risks disruption and financial instability on both sides of the Channel," he said."We urge the government and MPs to carefully consider the options without delay and put forward an economically sensible way ahead. A no deal outcome is not in the best interests of customers in the UK or the EU.”And Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, commented, “There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping."Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29."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 DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online DirectorySubscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all of the international assignments and global mobility news.

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