Business leaders welcome Theresa May Brexit agreement following no-deal fears
Business groups have welcomed Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement after months of warning about the danger of crashing out of the EU without a deal.
Firms congratulated the Prime Minister for avoiding a “cliff edge” exit, which leaders long-warned as a risk to jobs and to industries’ success.
Under the deal, the UK will stay in a so-called "implementation period" keeping the country in the customs union and single market until the end of 2020 while negotiations continue on a future trade deal.
The deal will also keep the UK in a customs union with the EU in the longer-term to avoid a hard Irish border until that trade deal can be agreed.
The agreement was last night signed off by Cabinet following a more than 5-hour “impassioned” discussion and is expected to be voted on by MPs next month.
CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, who in September said leaving the EU without a deal posed “catastrophic risks” said: "If passed, it moves the UK one step away from the nightmare precipice of no deal and the harm it would cause to communities across the country.
“Securing a transition period has long been firms’ top priority and every day that passes without one means lost investment and jobs, hitting the most vulnerable hardest. Time is now up.
“This deal is a compromise, including for business, but it offers that essential transitional period as a step back from the cliff-edge.
She added that more clarity on the final relationship was needed given uncertainty remained high, and said the Government must “secure frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services” beyond the transition period due to kick in in from 29 March.
“The UK has had many months of discussion and division. A long journey still lies ahead but now is the time for decisions. And the first decision is to avoid no deal,” she added.
Mrs May’s agreement has been roundly attacked by hardline Brexiteers however, with Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Tories’ European Research Group, branding it “profoundly undemocratic” as he urged MPs to block it.
Meanwhile Sammy Wilson, from the DUP, who the Tories rely on for an overall parliamentary majority, railed against the text, saying the PM accepted "a deal she said she would never accept".
'THINK LONG AND HARD'
However Institute of Directors boss Stephen Martin called on MPs “to think long and hard about how they react to this first-stage agreement”.
“Leaving the EU without a deal is a very bad outcome for businesses, workers and consumers, and this is simply an inherent risk that comes with voting down any withdrawal deal,” he said.
“Our members will adjust to a new relationship with the EU, but they must be allowed to do this in as smooth and orderly manner as possible.
“We, like many, will be seeking clarification from both sides about several areas, in particular on the remaining detail for the future framework declaration.
“But we are also heartened to see that provision has been made for an extension to the transition period, which may be needed not only to avoid the deployment of the backstop but also to ensure firms have enough time to adjust to any new changes once the new economic partnership has been agreed.”
Elsewhere British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson, said the draft agreement was a “welcome step towards a deal”.
“It is vital that we avoid the cliff edge of no deal in March 2019 as this could immediately lead to consumers facing higher prices and reduced availability of many everyday products,” she said.