London, United Kingdom | AFP | Britain’s business community on Wednesday urged politicians to avoid a “no deal” Brexit after another crushing parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May over her EU-divorce deal with Brussels.
MPs will Wednesday vote on whether the country should leave the European Union without a deal in just over two weeks, with analysts expecting parliament instead to favour delaying Britain’s departure beyond the March 29 exit date, in a further vote due Thursday.
The fast-moving saga has gripped world markets and overshadowed the British government’s budget update due at 1230 GMT, when it will reveal also the latest impact of Brexit on official economic growth forecasts.
“It’s time for parliament to stop this circus,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of Britain’s biggest employers’ organisation, the Confederation of British Industry, after MPs rejected May’s draft divorce agreement for the second time late on Tuesday.
Fairbairn added that May needed to extend Article 50 deadline for withdrawal from the bloc, to allow sufficient time for an acceptable deal.
– ‘New approach is needed’ –
“Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics,” Fairbairn said in a statement.
“A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it. Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent.”
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which represents thousands of firms, agreed that a “no deal” exit must be avoided.
And it voiced anger that politicians were still grappling with how to facilitate the outcome of the June 2016 EU exit referendum.
“There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping,” the BCC said.
It added: “Businesses will take a dim view of more shuttle diplomacy and last-minute bargaining, which have so far done nothing to end the political impasse.
“The government must now urgently set out in concrete terms what it will do to avoid the damage that a messy and disorderly exit on March 29 would cause to businesses, communities, and the UK economy.”
– Zero-tariffs –
In a bid to soothe frantic fears of a chaotic departure, May’s Conservative government on Wednesday said it would temporarily slash most import tariffs in the event of a “no deal” Brexit.
Britain also vowed not to apply customs checks on the border with Ireland, albeit temporarily.
However, the tariffs pledge also drew an angry response from business leaders.
The new regime is aimed at avoiding a jump in prices of EU imports for consumers and a disruption of supply chains, and is intended to be last up to one year pending negotiations on a more permanent system.
Under the proposal, 87 percent of imports into Britain will be eligible for zero tariffs. That compares with the current level of 80 percent.
“These are being imposed on this country with no consultation with business with no time to prepare,” Fairbairn told BBC radio.
“This is no way to run a country,” she added, warning that the impact could be a “sledgehammer to our economy”.
The BCC also lambasted the move as an “unwelcome shock” for many.
“The abruptness of changes to tariff rates in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU would be an unwelcome shock to many of the businesses affected,” it said.
In the auto sector, the government said that carmakers reliant on EU supply chains would not face tariffs for imported parts used to make vehicles in Britain.
Yet the news failed to convince national industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
“Today’s announcement does not resolve the devastating effect a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have on the automotive industry,” said SMMT boss Mike Hawes.
“No policy on tariffs can come close to compensating for the disruption, cost and job losses that would result from ‘no deal’.
“It’s staggering that we are in this position with only days until we are due to leave.”