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Analysis

Brexit ‘bad for business, bad for working people’ say bosses

by Hugo Dixon | 05.11.2018

Over 70 business leaders have called for a People’s Vote. No wonder, when the Brexit uncertainty damaging the economy now looks set to continue for years to come under the kind of miserable Brexit Theresa May is offering.

It’s still not even clear whether the prime minister can clinch a Brexit deal and ram it through her Cabinet. Stories at the weekend that a deal was imminent have been followed by stories today that the talks remain stalled on the so-called Irish backstop, the chances of an agreement are 50/50, and the Cabinet won’t be presented with a fait accompli tomorrow after all.

What is clear is that the deal Theresa May is concocting would be miserable. In fact, it won’t be a trade pact at all. It will be a half-baked deal that merely specifies our divorce terms, costs us at least £39 billion and probably a lot more, and ties us up in knots because of the commitments we will have to make to keep the Irish border open.

That’s why business leaders – including Martha Lane Fox (founder of Lastminute.com), John Neill (Unipart’s boss) and Paul Myners (former chair of Marks and Spencer) – called at the weekend for a People’s Vote.

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In an open letter, they wrote that the “uncertainty over the past two years has already led to a slump in investment, which will make our country poorer” and that the Brexit now on offer will “further depress investment” and this will be “bad for business and bad for working people.” As if on cue, business confidence slumped to the lowest point since the credit crunch, according to figures out today.

For business, the key problems are that the political declaration about our future trading relationship with the EU won’t give us good access to our biggest market, won’t be legally binding and will be ambiguous. It will be written in “disappearing ink”, one Cabinet source told the Sunday Times.

The divorce agreement will keep the UK in the EU’s single market and customs union for 21 months after we quit the bloc – without a vote on the rules. But no business can make long-term investments on the basis of only 21 months of certainty.

As of April 1 next year – yes, the first working day after we are supposed to leave the EU is April Fools’ Day – firms will be staring at a bewildering array of further cliff edges, possible extensions to the transition, Irish “backstops” and “backstops to backstops”. The rules under which business operates could change more than once – and we’ll no longer have any say over them.

There will be no clarity at all about the final destination – except that it will be worse than our current deal in the EU. Meanwhile, the different parliamentary factions will continue to fight over who should be in charge and where the country should be going. The real trade negotiations will drag on for years, probably at least five.

But it’s not too late to turn back from this destructive future for our economy and jobs. And the best way to do that is with a People’s Vote.

Business for a People’s Vote will be launched on Thursday with a panel discussion of business leaders who will talk through why they think such a “blindfold Brexit” will be bad for business and jobs and why a People’s Vote is the best option.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: , Categories: Economy

One Response to “Brexit ‘bad for business, bad for working people’ say bosses”

  • These are the very same people that have been driving down our terms and conditions for years and being paid outlandishly for their trouble. They are part of the problem!