EU business leaders 'extremely concerned' at lack of Brexit progress
European business leaders have urged the Government to make its Brexit plans clear or risk confidence in the British economy.
Several representatives of corporate lobby groups spoke out after a meeting with Theresa May in Downing Street yesterday.
Firms told the Prime Minister they wanted to see a "status quo" transition deal which retains existing trading arrangements between the UK and the continent, to avoid a 'cliff edge' for businesses.
And they warned that without progress soon companies would have to begin making contingency plans in case tariffs were imposed on goods.
Mrs May was also presented with a survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) showing that 60% of its members are may have to start making plans as early as March.
“Business is extremely concerned with the slow pace of negotiations and the lack of progress only one month before the decisive December European Council," said Emma Marcegaglia, the president of umbrella group BusinessEurope, which organised the meeting.
"We urge the UK Government to make good on its Florence commitments by providing concrete proposals on the three issues critical for talks to move to the next phase including citizens’ rights, the situation of Ireland and the financial settlement."
"We told them that they’ve lost a year because nothing happened. Now you have two weeks in which you have to be very clear," Ms Marcegaglia added.
She said it was "very, very bad" that firms were having to make special arrangements in case of a 'no deal' Brexit. "If [businesses] don’t have certainty, they will simply go away," she said.
That sentiment was echoed by the head of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn: “This is very urgent now - firms will soon have no choice but to assume the worst in terms of planning for no deal."
“A transition period reflecting the current arrangements remains the priority on both sides of the Channel. While businesses welcomed the Prime Minister’s Florence speech, we now need to move beyond warm words if jobs, investment and living standards are to be protected," she added.
The head of Irish business group Ibec, Danny McCoy, joined the chorus of concern, saying: “Business is increasingly frustrated and concerned at the lack of progress in negotiations. To move past the first phase of talks, which covers Ireland, the financial settlement and citizens’ rights, we need practical solutions and firm commitments, not just rhetoric.”