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Business groups ‘watching in horror’ as they plead with MPs to stop no-deal Brexit



Five leading business groups have joined forces to urge politicians to prevent a no-deal Brexit as firms “reach the point of no return” ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU on 29 March.

The CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, expressed dismay that MPs had descended into factional in-fighting as the risk of crashing out without a deal rises.

A joint statement from the groups, together representing hundreds of thousands of firms employing millions of people, said the suggestion that there could be a “managed” no-deal was not credible.

The statement called on MPs from all parties to talk to their constituency business communities over Christmas and remember that when they return to parliament “the future course of our economy will be in their hands”.

It comes after the government began ramping up preparations for a no-deal scenario, which will include information packs being sent to businesses about border changes as well as 3,500 troops being held on standby to deal with any “contingencies”.

The business groups said that for many companies who have yet to start preparing it is too late and that there was “simply not enough time to prevent severe dislocation and disruption” with 100 days to go until the UK’s departure.

“Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward,” the statement said.

“The lack of progress in Westminster means that the risk of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is rising.

“Businesses of all sizes are reaching the point of no return, with many now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money.

“While many companies are actively preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario, there are also hundreds of thousands who have yet to start – and cannot be expected to be ready in such a short space of time.”

The statement was the latest intervention by business into the Brexit debate.

It added: “With just 100 days to go, the suggestion that ‘no-deal’ can be ‘managed’ is not a credible proposition.

“Businesses would face massive new customs costs and tariffs. Disruption at ports could destroy carefully built supply chains.

“From broadcasters, to insurance brokers, to our financial services – the UK’s world-leading services sector will be needlessly disadvantaged, and many professional qualifications will be unrecognised across the EU.

“UK and EU nationals working abroad will be left in deep uncertainty about their future.”

Leading companies from Rolls-Royce to Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods have already said they are stockpiling goods in case of no deal.

Food and drinks giant Nestle has also said it is building up goods but warned that even after making preparations the consequences of no deal would be “very severe”.

Meanwhile, warehouse space is filling up fast as companies push ahead with no-deal preparations.

Airbus has said that its investments in the UK are in a “holding pattern” amid uncertainty over Brexit but that these could be unlocked in the event of the withdrawal agreement being resolved.

Meanwhile, the City faces reduced access to European markets and uncertainty over how rules on trading in trillions of pounds worth of financial instruments will be affected.

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