New Brexit plan prompts business unease

Business leaders in the UK have expressed unease over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's new plan to reach a Brexit deal with the EU.

Canary Wharf and workers
With the UK due to leave the bloc at the end of this month, business leaders are not convinced the latest proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland will satisfy Brussels. They also want firmer plans for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.

Prime Minister's proposals would threaten the Good Friday Agreement

Under Mr Johnson's proposals, Northern Ireland would be tied to the EU single market rules for trade in goods while leaving the customs union along with the rest of the UK. EU officials have expressed concerns that the return of customs controls would threaten the Good Friday Agreement guarantee to maintain an open border with the Republic.Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said it was not clear if the new proposals would move Brexit negotiations forward."They cannot be the final destination, stranding Northern Ireland with friction on all sides," she said. "But firms will desperately hope there is room for further urgent conversation between UK, EU and devolved nations.“No deal would be a historic failure of statecraft. We urge all sides to keep the door open on the chance to get Brexit done with a deal.”

The UK is at a Brexit crossroad

Dame Carolyn described the UK as being at a crossroads. "One road leads to the prime minister’s optimistic vision for our country. Firms will back the call for business and government to work together to lift growth and tackle inequality. This scale of ambition for infrastructure, skills, sustainability and trade will show the world that the UK is a magnet for world-class enterprise.“But this vision relies on a good Brexit deal. The no-deal turning ends in a very different place: a swamp that will slow the UK’s every step for years to come."

British Chambers of Commerce: neither the UK government nor many businesses are completely ready for a no-deal Brexit

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said that businesses across the country wanted to see a Brexit deal done, "not just get Brexit done".He said the reality was that neither the UK government nor many businesses were completely ready for a no-deal Brexit and that nobody should downplay the disruption and economic dislocation resulting from a "messy" departure.“The prime minister repeated his wish to reach an agreement with the EU, but over the next two weeks businesses need to see these intentions turn into concrete reality," he said.

Institute of Directors: the issues addressing the Irish border cannot be treated in isolation

Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said there were fears that proposals for the Irish border would put an unbearable burden on businesses.“Business leaders keenly hope there is space for a deal, but we are fast running out of road. We await the details behind the government’s proposals, but the issues in addressing the Irish border are not just technical in nature, and they can’t be treated in isolation," he said."Moreover, plans to avoid a hard border can't put the compliance burden so high on businesses that it aggravates the existing challenges while creating a whole new set of problems.“A no-deal exit will not relieve uncertainty but exacerbate it, squashing investment and distracting ever further from pressing domestic priorities."

Federation of Small Businesses: the Prime Minister needs a viable way to secure a deal

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, added: "This is crunch time in the Brexit process and it is vital that the prime minister finds not just words but a viable way forward to secure a deal and a period of transition."The UK's small businesses are crying out for an end to the Brexit paralysis, which is stifling growth and strangling progress on important domestic priorities."

For more news and views, visit our dedicated Brexit section.

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