Politicians should get on with delivering a workable Brexit and stop bickering and posturing, the biggest business-representation organisation in the Midlands has said.
With only three months left to finalise a deal and eight months to the 29 March 2019 leaving deadline if no transitional arrangement is agreed, the continuing uncertainty is damaging UK business prospects, according to East Midlands Chamber*.
It says Government has managed to make only very limited progress on issues where clarity is essential to ensure post-Brexit business success, with little or no progress made on other important matters.
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at the Chamber, said: “At the weekend, the Cabinet spent 12 hours hammering out a Brexit plan that was supposed to ensure our future relationship with our neighbour and biggest single trading partner.
“Hours later, two of the most prominent figures in the negotiations and our future relationship resigned, one of them claiming the deal on the table will ‘kill the Brexit dream’.
“This is simply not good enough. By now, businesses should have a clear indication of what our future trading relationship with the EU will be, what border controls and tariffs they might have to contend with and what arrangements there will be for recruiting or retaining EU staff and expertise.
“We should not, 15 months into a two-year negotiating period, still have no idea whatsoever about future trading relationships with the EU and the rest of the world.
“The Chamber has always been and will remain neutral on Brexit. But enough is enough. We had the referendum and the duty of our politicians since then has been to deliver the will of the people and secure the best Brexit deal to ensure businesses have the most seamless transition possible.
“Business cannot function effectively when faced with a massively uncertain future. It’s a very poor state of affairs when the best Brexit advice we can give our members and the wider business community is to plan for the worst but hope for the best.”
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), of which East Midlands Chamber is an affiliate, last week published the two-dozen top real-world questions being asked on Brexit by businesses across the UK.
It warned Government to draw a line under internal political debate and deliver urgent clarity on the practical, detailed issues that underpin trade – or face a continued deterioration in investment intentions and confidence as the clock ticks down to the October deadline to complete the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement.
It said that, so far, businesses have had some assurances on the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and on the industrial standards regime but progress is needed on:
- Tax - whether a business will need to pay VAT on goods at point of import, and will services firms need to be registered in every EU Member State where it has clients
- Tariffs - what Rules of Origin firms will have to comply with to receive preferential tariff rates
- Customs - whether goods will be subject to new procedures, and delayed at border checkpoints
- Regulation - whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU
- Mobility - whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as currently
- R&D projects - whether UK businesses will be able to participate in EU projects after 2020.
Scott added: “With time running out, business patience is reaching breaking point.
“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.
“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer today to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum. It’s time for politicians to stop bickering and start putting the national economic interest first.”