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Government leaving businesses 'in the dark' over lack of no deal Brexit planning, say bosses

3 min read

Business chiefs have accused the Government of leaving companies "in the dark" by failing to make clear how it would cope with a no deal Brexit.

A survey of 800 firms by the Institute of Directors found that fewer than a third of them had carried out any contingency planning for the UK's departure from the EU.

Half say they do not intend to draw up any plans, with nearly 50% of those saying they will only make changes to how they work once Britain's future relationship with Brussels becomes clearer.

And while a fifth of companies say they will draw up Brexit plans, three-quarters of those say they are waiting on more clarity from the Government.

But in better news for Theresa May, only one in 10 businesses say they are seriously considering relocating to the EU because of Brexit, although that could rise to more than 20% if the Government's negotiations with the bloc do not go well.

The Government has said it will publish more details on its no deal planning over the summer.

IoD director general Stephen Martin said: "Many companies are still unprepared for Brexit, and it’s hard to blame them. When it comes to knowing what to plan for and when, firms have been left in the dark.

"Trade associations like the IoD are doing their best to fill the information void, but the reality is that many companies feel they can only make changes once there is tangible information about what they are adjusting to.

"As long as no-deal remains a possibility, it is essential that the Government steps up to the plate and provides advice on preparing for such an outcome. We therefore urge them to speed up publication of the technical notices. This should also help make companies more alert to the need to prepare now for all eventualities."

Mr Martin also hinted that the transition period following Brexit, which is scheduled to last until the end of 2020, should be extended to give businesses more time to adapt.

He said: "Any transition period must take account of the fact that many businesses feel they can only adjust once there is clarity about the direction of travel. Given full negotiations on the future relationship can only begin once we have left the EU, both sides should ensure there is a proper implementation period once a new agreement has been concluded.

"This is after all what would happen following the conclusion of any other trade deal."

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: "The Institute of Directors, with no obvious political leanings, represents a wide range of businesses. Their warning that one in five companies are seriously considering relocating based on the outcome of Brexit must therefore be taken seriously.  

"The UK should be seen as a hub of creativity and excellence in business. However, this survey reveals what we expected. Business leaders are planning for the worst and have their eyes on the exit.

"With the prospect of a no-deal growing day by day, so too are concerns about financial instability and fears of job losses. This can be avoided if people are given the final say on Brexit, with the option to remain."

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