Business leaders respond with dismay to 'blinkered' Boris Johnson speech

Posted On: 
2nd October 2019

Business leaders have given a muted response to Boris Johnson's Tory conference speech - and renewed their warnings about the economic impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson is congratulated by Sajid Javid after his conference speech.
PA Images

The Prime Minister warned the EU that the UK is ready to leave on 31 October "come what may" unless the bloc responds favourably to the final offer he is tabling on Wednesday.

But umbrella groups representing the UK's business community united to warn Mr Johnson that would be the worst possible outcome for their members and the people they employ.

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Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "This is crunch time in the Brexit process and it is vital that the Prime Minister finds not just words but a viable way forward to secure a deal and a period of transition.

"The UK’s small businesses are crying out for an end to the Brexit paralysis, which is stifling growth and strangling progress on important domestic priorities.

"Leaving the EU with no deal at the end of the month is a frightening prospect for many small firms, whose successful contribution to the economy is based upon strategy and forward-planning, not dropping off the end of a cliff and hoping for the best."

Mr Cherry added: "It is regrettable and blinkered that the Prime Minister failed to mention small businesses at all in today’s speech. The UK’s 5.6 million small businesses are the backbone of this country and its economy."

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said no-deal would be "a swamp that will slow the UK’s every step for years to come".

She added: "No-deal would be a historic failure of statecraft. We urge all sides to keep the door open on the chance to get Brexit done with a deal."

In a swipe at Mr Johnson's "get Brexit done" mantra, Edwin Morgan, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: "The Prime Minister spoke of needing compromise to reach a Brexit deal, and all sides must live up to this principle in word and deed in the weeks ahead. It can’t just be about getting Brexit done, it matters how it’s done.

"Business leaders keenly hope there is space for a deal, but we are fast running out of road."

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell hit out at the Government's plans for replacing the Irish backstop with customs checks and a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

He said: "Any responsible Prime Minister would have spent the past three months trying to build a consensus in Parliament and across the EU in order to break the deadlock.

"However, Boris Johnson has neither the intention nor ability to negotiate a deal or protect jobs and communities across the United Kingdom.

"The Conservatives have failed on Brexit, failed on the economy, failed on housing and failed on schools."