Dominic Raab slaps down High Street giant John Lewis after Brexit blamed for profits slump
Dominic Raab has hit back at John Lewis after the retail giant said Brexit was partly to blame for a slump in profits.
Figures published by the company revealed that it made just £1.2m in the six months to 28 July - down 99% on the year before.
"With the level of uncertainty facing consumers and the economy, in part due to the ongoing Brexit negotiations, forecasting is particularly difficult but we continue to expect full year profits to be substantially lower than last year for the partnership as a whole," the retailer said.
But speaking to the Today programme, Brexit Secretary Mr Raab said companies need to "take responsibility" for their own performance.
He said: “I don’t doubt that some of the uncertainty around these negotiations will have an impact of business - that’s why we are putting all our energy into getting the good deal that we want with our EU friends and partners.
“At the same time making sure we manage the risks so it [a no deal] doesn’t happen.”
He added: “All I’m gently saying is it’s rather easy for a business to blame Brexit and the politicians rather than take responsibility for their own situation.”
A spokesperson for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign group said: "This is a pathetic attempt by a senior minister to blame the disaster they are overseeing on other people. Dominic Raab today admitted to ‘risks’ and ‘disruption’ from a no-deal Brexit - with tariffs and ‘delays for business.
“When retail giants like John Lewis let out a Brexit shriek we should all be worried - not only because the store is a British institution, but because what John Lewis are feeling is what the small tailor or tech start up are feeling ten times worse.”
Labour meanwhile seized on the row and accused Mr Raab of "attacking a great British brand".
Shadow Business Minister Bill Esterson told PoliticsHome: "Clearly Boris Johnson’s F-business attitude hasn’t left the cabinet with him. The Conservatives’ irresponsible handling of the Brexit negotiations is threatening businesses across the country.
"Instead of attacking a great British brand for their honesty and for expressing their concerns, the Brexit secretary should get on with the day job and focus on doing a deal that looks after the jobs and prosperity of the British people."
The spat comes just two days after the boss of car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover warned that tens of thousands of jobs could be at risk if the UK fails to secures a deal with the EU.
The firm's chief executive Ralf Speth said they could lose £60m per day if there was any friction in trade between Britain and the EU after Brexit on 29 March next year.
And he added: “A thousand (jobs were) lost as a result of diesel policy and those numbers will be counted in the tens of thousands if we do not get the right Brexit deal. Currently I do not even know if any of our manufacturing facilities in the UK will be able to function on the 30th.”