Greg Clark accused of 'Project Fear mark two' over call for business to speak up over Brexit
A former minister has accused Business Secretary Greg Clark of peddling "Project Fear mark two" after he urged firms to speak up about their concerns over Brexit.
Highlighting deep Tory splits over the UK's departure from the EU, David Jones said the Cabinet minister was spreading a sense of “panic” amid a furious Cabinet row over whether firms should be listened to.
The former Brexit minister spoke out after Mr Clark praised firms for putting "evidence before ideology" in their approach to Brexit.
In a speech at a Times CEO summit, he said they bring "actual experience of trading, whether with Europe or the rest of the world - nt a theoretical view of what the world will be like".
He added: "The experience of employing millions of men and women and helping them earn a good living, not a theoretical exercise in which you take decisions about the lives of people in imagined circumstances in imagined worlds.
“So the business voice seems to me to be the foundation to a successful, effective negotiation.”
He added that it was “important” for firms to feed him evidence and data about Brexit that he could present “unflinchingly” in Cabinet.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is said to have declared “f*** business” in response to Brexit warnings from major companies, while Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said their interventions were “inappropriate”.
Manufacturing giant Airbus has said it could be forced to quit the UK if it leaves the single market without a transitional deal, while carmaker BMW has echoed the warnings.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders meanwhile urged Theresa May to rethink her Brexit policy or put thousands of jobs at risk.
Mr Jones said: "Cabinet ministers should be informing business of what the Government is doing to ensure we get a good deal. This is ridiculous. You don’t take your lead from businesses, you set the policy and then inform the debate.
"What he is doing is communicating a sense of panic, rather than a sense of reassurance. There is a risk he is unwittingly participating in Project Fear Mark II, which is being orchestrated by EU-based businesses."
UNION AND BUSINESS JOINT WARNING
Union leaders joined forces with top business bosses to call for faster progress in the Brexit negotiations to kill off the climate of uncertainty.
The TUC and its European counterpart linked up with the directors general of BusinessEurope and the CBI, Markus Beyrer and Carolyn Fairbairn, to issue the warning.
All together the organisations represent 45 million workers and 20 million employers across the continent.
In a joint statement, they said: "We are calling on the UK Government and the EU to inject pace and urgency in the negotiations, bringing about measurable progress, in particular a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
"Decisions will be needed in June and October to finalise the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangement, and put economic interests and people's jobs, rights and livelihoods first."
Meanwhile, The Sun reports that Theresa May will summon her whole Cabinet to an away day at her Chequers official residence next Friday to finally thrash out the Government's Brexit approach.
The decision to gather her entire frontbench team has increased speculation that she will force through a softer Brexit than that demanded by the likes of Boris Johnson and David Davis.
Cabinet has a clear pro-Remain majority, while the Prime Minister's Brexit sub-committee is more finely-balanced.
One Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome: "There can only be two outcomes - fudge or bust-up. We're running out of road to kick those cans."