Brexit is burning UK business – the flames are already lit

by Hugo Dixon | 23.01.2019

We may be about to witness corporate arson on a horrific scale. The Brexiters have lit the torch and the prime minister is doing nothing to stop them.

The string of bad news we saw yesterday is just the foretaste of things to come if we crash out of the EU with no deal. P&O announced that its fleet of cross-Channel ferries will re-register under the Cypriot flag. Sony said it would move its European HQ from London to Amsterdam to avoid Brexit disruption. Dixons Carphone and Pets at Home are stockpiling supplies because they fear chaos at the ports.

And James Dyson, yes Dyson the Brexiter pin-up whom Boris Johnson adored because he campaigned for the UK to quit the EU, is shifting his company headquarters to Singapore. The firm says it’s nothing to do with Brexit. It’s just “future proofing” its business. Pull the other one.

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The prime minister is sitting by watching this corporate arson, like Nero fiddling when Rome burnt. She refuses to take “no deal” off the table – and is threatening to whip her party to keep it open as an option.

Fortunately, enough MPs both in the opposition and her own party are likely to stand up to her and put out the fire. A string of amendments to the government’s non-existent Plan B – especially killer ones from Dominic Grieve and Yvette Cooper – should do the job. But much damage has already been done – and cannot be repaired.

As the horror of what the hardliners propose becomes clear, two big bastions of the business community are finally swinging into action. The Financial Times has a powerful leader entitled: “If Parliament cannot resolve Brexit, a new referendum is needed.” Since MPs are unlikely to agree on any form of Brexit, the FT line is likely soon to become a clear call for a People’s Vote.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has produced analysis which shows that “no deal” would be a “disaster” for the British economy. Its interactive map shows the impact on every region and nation – and it is grim.

The CBI now needs to go further, follow its analysis through to its logical conclusions and say: “If MPs cannot agree a deal, they must ask the people if they still want to leave the EU.”

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

8 Responses to “Brexit is burning UK business – the flames are already lit”

  • I’d like to see how support for a Hard Brexit correlates with MPs who are also opposed to the EU Tax Directive being implemented, which comes into force this year. Does anyone know? I suspect this is what drives the reckless actions we are seeing rather than respecting the will of the people. If May respected the will of Parliament she would realise her deal was dead in the water.

  • Just reading how Brexit is infecting politics at the other North Sea shores (it helps to be able to read the local languages there and avoid the English media). Not funny, actually, and in case of a crash-out Brexit likely to be the probable cause of rather bad blood in the future. What an achievement for at one time one of the most rational nations in Europe.

  • On the other side; Industry did take its time to finally sing loud and clear about what Brexit would mean to them. Pity; as that maintained the Project Fear fairytale for far longer than was healthy for the nation. Never mind the joke that is called opposition by the biggest opposition party.

  • The dire warnings of the CBI, the Bank of England and the number of companies jumping ship goes unheeded. The English have a mindset problem in that many still believe this country is a superpower with an empire that gives orders to others. It is an attitude propagated and cherished in the public school system. The English do not want to be part of a cooperative European team because they see themselves as superior to anyone else. They cannot put up with being a just team member rather than the captain. We have to change this attitude if we are to defeat Brexit. I say ‘English’ because England is the country driving this stupidity. The arrogance is breathtaking.

  • I’m sorry William but you are missing the underlying frustration and anger that created the Brexit vote. For many years now the lower income working people of this country have seen their wages reducing, working hours increasing, reduced terms and conditions and pensions being obliterated. At the same time as top executives, CEOs, lawyers etc noshing at the financial trough. We see these people as hand in glove with national and EU politicians (fairly or not?) and never addressing the wider national societal concerns. This is why we need to see genuine change within th EU to want to stay part of that organisation.

  • Peter,
    Read p5 of this link of one of the economic minds behind Brexit, often quoted by Jacob Rees Mogg as being a genius. In his mind Graduates and clever people will be OK, but hard luck if you are in a Manufacturing job. If you were worried about the EU you should be terrified of what this man wants through a Hard Brexit.


  • While it is true to say that genuine frustration and anger from “left behind” people, particularly in the north, was a major factor in the high leave vote, has anyone analysed the referendum results in a great swathe of south east England outside London? In many well-heeled constituencies there was a “leave” majority. In others the “remain” majority was very small. To my mind this (reflecting thoughts of past glories and English exceptionalism) was what really swung the overall result – not the understandable feeling of poorer people that leaving the EU might somehow give them a better future.