British business slams Brexit

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
British business slams Brexit

The UK's political leaders have been accused of "division and disorganisation" and of putting the economy at serious risk with their approach on Brexit.

The British Chambers of Commerce have launched a broadside at Theresa May's government as it prepares to embark on "phase two" of the negotiations for the UK to break with Brussels.

The prime minister has described Brexit as "crucial" in the coming year. The second stage of talks - referred to as "phase two" - is due to begin in March next year.

What is the British Chambers of Commerce?

A business organisation. It represents:

  • 75,000 businesses

  • Five million employees

What are they saying?

That businesses are so dismayed at the lack of leadership and mixed messages about Brexit that many are making contingency plans and preparing themselves for lower levels of investment.

Director General Adam Marshall says Theresa May's government must announce a clear plan for a post-Brexit transitional period so companies can plan ahead.

"Some very big decisions lie ahead," Marshall told the UK Observer newspaper. "Getting the twin challenges of Brexit and the economic fundamentals right will require leadership, consistency and clarity - after a year in which business has been dismayed by what it sees as division and disorganisation across Westminster."

But he says the lack of clarity and absence of leadership is a problem “across Westminster”, suggesting Labour and other opposition parties, as well as the Whitehall machine, are also failing to rise to the challenge of Brexit.

"Businesses have been very patient in waiting for clarity on Brexit in the 18 months since the referendum. That patience is now wearing thin. Businesses want answers, they want clarity and they want results."

Brexit: what happened when

  • Early December: the EU agrees enough progress has been made on "phase one" talks to allow negotiations to move on to future trade relations in the new year.

  • Days later: Tory rebels voted with opposition parties to demand a meaningful vote on the final deal.

  • December 20: EU Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier sets a new transition deadline.

  • **Last week: **pro-EU Tory peer and former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine suggested a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn could be less damaging than a Conservative-engineered Brexit.
  • **Last Friday: **Labour Peer Lord Adonis resigned as Theresa May's "infrastructure tsar" in protest at her handling of the Brexit negotiations.

Additional sources • The Observer