Firms preparing to axe British jobs as no-deal Brexit fears rise, bosses warn

Posted On: 
21st October 2018

Fear of a no-deal Brexit is already forcing big businesses to plan job cuts, a major industry lobby group has warned.

The port of Dover CBI chief Caroline Fairbairn said Brexit talks had been "outpaced by the reality firms are facing on the ground".
Credit: 
PA

A fresh survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealed 15% of companies who have drawn up contingency plans in case Britain leaves the EU without a deal intend to shift jobs overseas - while 3% have already axed UK roles because of uncertainty in the Brexit talks.

The study also reveals 80% of large companies believe Britain's move to quit the European Union has had a "negative impact on investment decisions" - up from just 36% the same time last year.

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The report, which was quickly seized on by anti-Brexit campaigners, found that more than a third (39%) of the 236 companies surveyed plan to put their no-deal Brexit plans in place if there is "no clarity" on the outcome of talks by November.

With Brexit talks still deadlocked over how to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, almost a quarter (24%) of firms say they will pull the trigger on their no-deal plans in December.

The CBI said 44% of firms with no-deal contingency plans in place already intend to start stockpiling goods in case of disruption to supply chains, while almost a third (30%) are thinking of shifting production or services to another country.

CBI chief Caroline Fairbairn said: “The situation is now urgent. The speed of negotiations is being outpaced by the reality firms are facing on the ground.

“Unless a Withdrawal Agreement is locked down by December, firms will press the button on their contingency plans. Jobs will be lost and supply chains moved.

“The knock-on effect for the UK economy would be significant. Living standards would be affected and less money would be available for vital public services including schools, hospitals and housing."

Warning of the "corrosive" effect of a no-deal Brexit, the boss of the business umbrella group added: “Businesses have displayed remarkable resilience since the Referendum, but patience is now threadbare. Negotiators must secure the Withdrawal Agreement before December to unlock a transition period.

"The message to politicians on all sides is: ‘your actions will echo through generations’.”

'COMMUNITIES SUFFERING'

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, speaking on behalf of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain campaign, pounced on the latest warning from the CBI.

She said: "Brexit makes shops shut - that's what the business community is saying.

"Neither a nightmare no deal nor the Government's bad Chequers deal will protect business investment, and therefore British jobs up and down the country. That means communities suffering because of Brexit.

"It's clear there's no mutation of Brexit that could protect our economy. The public needs a final say with the option to stay."

But a spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We are working hard to deliver a deal that works for businesses and remain confident of a positive outcome.

"In the unlikely event we leave the EU without a deal, we have issued over 100 technical notices to help businesses make informed plans and preparations.

"We have engaged extensively with businesses and industry bodies from all sectors of the economy throughout the exit process and will continue to do so."

'HALF IN, HALF OUT'

In a bid to calm business jitters about the Government's Brexit strategy, Theresa May on Friday held a conference call with more than 100 industry chiefs to brief them on the state of talks with the EU.

Downing Street said: “There’s no doubt that we take their views very seriously and we consider them an incredibly important voice as part of a future deal with the EU."

But John Longworth, co-Founder of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave group, told PoliticsHome that businesses were craving "certainty" rather than the "unrealistic half-in half-out approach" being pursued by the PM.

He argued that quitting the bloc as soon as possible could give firms "a programme to work towards and prove easily that no deal is no problem".

The Brexiteer added: "Even the chief of Germany’s biggest bank has said the UK will prosper after Brexit without the burden of regulation emanating from Brussels.

"This is exactly what the EU knows and they are desperate not to be undercut by an independent UK - which is why they are using every tactic possible to lock us inside a customs union.

"Instead of the time-wasting dancing to the EU’s tune we should walk away and start planning for our own ambitious and prosperous future."