Risk & Economy » Brexit » Business groups react to Brexit vote

A second huge defeat for Theresa May’s EU withdrawal deal, by 149 votes, with just 17 days to go to Brexit has drawn criticism from business groups and demands to avoid crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Business lobbies including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors, as well as bodies representing the financial services industry have called for extension to Article 50- which triggered the Brexit process-to prevent a no-deal scenario.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, 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.”

She added: “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.”

Edwin Morgan, interim director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “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 29 March, 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 29 March.”

Fears of the City

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, the governing body of the Square Mile, said: “The rejection of the Government’s deal tonight leaves British businesses facing continued economic uncertainty at a critical juncture.

“We are now staring down the precipice. Politicians of every hue must overcome their differences and make avoiding a no-deal Brexit the absolute priority, starting with the vote in Parliament tomorrow. The financial consequences of a no-deal Brexit are well-versed and politicians must now act to prevent this from becoming a reality for businesses and households across the country.

“Extending Article 50 would be one way of avoiding the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal but this would only be a sticking plaster unless the deep, underlying issues are resolved. Politicians must use any extension to work together as a matter of urgency to secure a deal, locking in a legally binding transition within the necessary timeframe.”

Miles Celic, CEO of TheCityUk, said: “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.”

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers, said: “This is very worrying. Failure to agree a deal with Brexit just weeks away only adds to the uncertainty for our customers and the insurance industry. It is vital that decisive action is taken to avoid a no-deal Brexit this week. If the only alternative to no deal is some form of short delay to Brexit, then delay we should.”