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Analysis

PM can’t dance away business fears of Brexit brinkmanship

by James Pritchard | 03.10.2018

In her conference speech today Theresa May declared the Conservatives were the party to “back business”. She also said she was not afraid to leave the EU with no deal. And that’s precisely what is worrying businesses throughout the UK.

In boardrooms and office canteens up and down the country the prime minister’s plans for Brexit are already causing real damage to jobs, investment and opportunities.

InFacts has spent the last few months talking with businesses across the UK about their Brexit concerns.

Some of their stories have appeared on our website already. The tale of Nick Hart, managing director of a heating and air conditioning firm, who says his whole business model could be shot to bits by delays at the ports. Or Sally Stephenson, the owner of two shops in the Vale of Glamorgan struggling with a massive increase in costs generated by the calamitous post-referendum fall in the value of sterling.

We have spoken to farmers concerned about new export rules, clogged up ports and shortages of vets. And to restaurateurs worried about staffing their kitchens and front of house. Ending the movement of low-skilled EU workers, by the way, was another theme of May’s speech.

Medical wholesalers, oil company executives, grocers and truck drivers have all had stories to tell about how a no-deal Brexit or the fudged half-way house of Chequers will inflict real damage on their businesses.

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52% of employers in the North East expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their business, a survey for the North East Chamber of Commerce found. Its chief executive, James Ramsbottom, warned that the government was “missing the far larger risks associated with Brexit and sleepwalking into economic disaster”.

In Oxford, BMW are shutting their plant for a month after Brexit day in March, worried about the cost of delays and disruption to their supply chain and refusing to believe reassurances from hardline Brexiters that borders will remain open to their components. Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall, Toyota and Unipart have also all warned of a Brexit hit.

In every area of the economy, for every business you talk to, the impact of Brexit and the mishandling of the talks, is a recurring theme and a constant concern.

Today May told her party conference in Birmingham that her Chequers proposal is the answer to frictionless borders, access to global markets and building a migration policy which enables our factories, farms and businesses to get the workers they need.

Never mind that she has already been told by the EU that it will not work, or as she put it herself, that Chequers is “very challenging for the EU”. Hardline Brexiter Tories in the European Research Group  have pledged to vote against the deal. Labour’s six tests look unlikely to be passed. The danger of crashing out without any deal and crippling business is looking increasingly likely.

Today May said her Chequers strategy meant Britain would be “open for business”. But the reality for actual business people running actual businesses is very different. It’s the reality of two lost years of uncertainty being followed by an act of economic self-harm as we crash over May’s cliff edge Brexit.

With the prime minister full steam ahead for the Brexit precipice, it’s little wonder many businesses are coming to the conclusion that the only way out of this mess is a People’s Vote.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

5 Responses to “PM can’t dance away business fears of Brexit brinkmanship”

  • Sorry, the only thing a people’s vote on the Brexit mess will cause is certainty that the ones who voted to leave in all likelihood will find that they all do that again, with the result a minimal majority of a hung vote. I seem to pick up that the ideal of cutting ties with foreigners and tossing out whatever of them will still be around in the UK after March 2019 really has a lot of resonance with this ilk. Too bad if your world view is less cramped than that.

  • I have to agree with Peter van Der Mark. I have not recently come across a Brexiteer who thinks that Brexit is going to go well, but the “Little Englander” mentality just wants to have blue passports, “take back control” of something somehow and sing Vera Lynn songs. They want out, they want the Empire back, they want Johnny Foreigner to know their place and that’s it.

  • Take courage fellow travellers! Did you not see the Survey carried out by Leave means Leave on Facebook by Nigel Farage last week? He had hoped to demonstrate that LEAVE supporters would vote the same way if a 2nd Referendum did actually happen. Unfortunately for him, 63% of those now said they would support Remaining in the EU! No coverage in the media or BBC of course. We all come across people who are so vehemently opposed to the EU concept that it would not matter how many lies were told or the extent of damage to the economy, they just want out. Thankfully, however there is plenty of evidence that those who were just deceived are waking up. We owe it to them and those most likely to suffer in the Brexit horror story that is unfolding to give them an opportunity to think again.

  • “For every business, mishandling of the talks is a constant concern”

    How should they be handled then? Could the Labour party do any better?

    Surely the point is that Brexit must be stopped – it is pure poison and should not be handled at all.

  • I think an other vote with the thousands of 18 plus eligible to vote this time will be a majority to end this farce for good , and remain in the EU for the good of all Europe and especially us!