As the Prime Minister meets with Donald Tusk again today ahead of the EU Council meeting a row’s broken out between businesses and government on the future…
What are businesses saying?
The companies employ tens of thousands across the UK and support the jobs of hundreds of thousands indirectly. However both warned that in the ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, where the UK leaves the Single Market and Customs Union without a replacement, they would have to lay off British workers and relocate manufacturing to somewhere in the EU.
“We have sought to highlight our concerns over the past 12 months, without success,” Tom Williams, chief operating officer at Airbus Commercial Aircraft, said in a statement.
“Far from Project Fear, this is a dawning reality for Airbus. Put simply, a No Deal scenario directly threatens Airbus’ future in the UK,” Williams added.
Airbus also said that even if a deal is struck, the current proposed transition period — due to expire on 31 December 2020 — would not allow enough time for the company and its suppliers to implement the required changes.
The boss of BMW UK Ian Robertson echoed this warning saying, "If we don't get clarity in the next couple of months we have to start making those contingency plans... which means making the UK less competitive than it is in a very competitive world right now."
"That is a decisive issue that ultimately could damage this industry."
Who else is concerned?
Britain’s 5 biggest business lobbying groups, the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the EEF and the British Chambers of Commerce, have all written to the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker over the weekend raising concerns.
On the two year anniversary of the Brexit vote the business leaders warned that “time is running out” on the negotiations and that bosses are losing patience so are drawing up contingency plans to relocate from Britain. In blunt terms the groups warn Brexit, “could cost the UK economy billions of pounds, thousands of jobs and leave many families without a main income”
How has the government responded?
Trade Secretary Liam Fox has said companies urging the Government to take the ‘no deal’ Brexit option off the table are harming the Government’s negotiations in Brussels.
In an interview with the BBC on Sunday Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt went further in his criticisms saying, “"It's completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats for one very simple reason - we are in an absolutely critical moment in the Brexit discussions and what that means is that we need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit, a clean Brexit and what businesses want and I was in business for 14 years, what they want is clarity and certainty."
The Department for Exiting the European Union said: “We have made significant progress on our withdrawal agreement and we are now engaged in positive negotiations on our future.”
Are there any businesses which are pro-Brexit?
Some businesses like machinery manufacturer JCB support Brexit. Their Chairman Lord Bamford previously quit the CBI, one of the senders of the letter, in response to its anti-Brexit stance and called the lobbying group a “waste of time”. He told The Telegraph, “The CBI really only represents 20 companies in my view and they are multinational and not British – something like Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell,”
Tim Martin the boss of British pub chain Weatherspoons has also been a vocal supporter of Brexit. His pubs recently stopped selling Champagne and replaced German beers with more British and American ones.