Another blow for companies desperate for clarity as PM confirms Brexit vote delay

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker

Responding to the delay of a vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, businesses across the East Midlands, we speak with business leaders top get their take on the news. 


Stephen Martin

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, says: “Business leaders may understand the political reasons for the delay, but today’s announcement will be viewed by most as another extension of the frustration and uncertainty. While we wish the Government well in their attempts to seek further assurances about the backstop, the clock is ticking and one of the only things we know for certain is that our exit date has been written into UK law for next March. The concern among businesses is clear, with two-thirds of our members saying a no-deal Brexit would be negative for their organisation.

“Avoiding no deal continues to be the main priority for our members but, with Parliament seemingly gridlocked, the Government must also be much clearer about its own contingency plans, even if only regarding the areas they can control, such as imports. Many companies are still in the dark about what HMRC and border agencies would require the day after Brexit if there is no transition period. Partly because of a lack of information, only 14% of IoD members say they are fully prepared to manage no-deal, highlighting the scale of the challenge if a withdrawal agreement isn’t ratified.”

Carolyn Fairbairn

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, says: “This is yet another blow for companies desperate for clarity. Investment plans have been paused for two and a half years.  Unless a deal is agreed quickly, the country risks sliding towards a national crisis.

“Politicians on both sides of the Channel need to show leadership, by building consensus to protect both the UK and EU’s prosperity. No one can afford to head into Christmas with the threat of no-deal costing jobs and hitting living standards.”


Mike Cherry of the FSB

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry says: “We’ve not seen political uncertainty weighing on small business confidence like this for many years. Planning ahead has now become impossible for a lot of firms as we simply don’t know what environment we’ll be faced with in little more than 100 days’ time.

“A pro-business Brexit is one that ensures we can trade easily with the EU and have access to the skills we need. The latter is already proving a challenge and – if we crash out of the EU on 29 March without a deal – the former will go out the window.

“As things stand, Brexit is absorbing all of the UK’s political bandwidth. Once resolved, we must get back to issues on the domestic agenda: a late payment crisis that destroys 50,000 firms a year, an outdated business rates system and spiralling employment costs.

“Politicians now need to move forward calmly and quickly to resolve this frustrating impasse as the clock continues ticking.”