Business leaders comment on draft Brexit deal

Following the announcement of Cabinet backing, for the draft Withdrawal Agreement as part of the Article 50 process, Business Leaders from across our region provide their response.


James Stewart, Head of Brexit at KPMG UK

James Stewart, Head of Brexit at KPMG UK says:

“The latest cabinet discussions on the draft text mark a big step forward in the construction of a Brexit deal but there remains a long, hard road to travel before any final agreement is clinched.  The businesses we’re speaking to are cautiously welcoming the progress being made.  However they are under no illusions about the pitfalls that lie ahead, the potential for an impasse being reached, and the absence of detail on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.

“Businesses that crave certainty and detail will have heard very little in recent days to make them feel they can now relax.  Indeed the feedback from some of our clients is quite the opposite.  Until there is broader political alignment and fewer risks, business leaders have little option but to continue to assume that the quest for a deal could yet be derailed.”



David Noon

David Noon, Global Brexit leader at Deloitte, says:

“This is a watershed moment for the Government, but any relief felt will be short lived. There is still much to do and the complex political situation both in the UK and Europe needs to be navigated before a final deal on the Withdrawal Treaty is agreed by all sides. Outstanding policy issues such as security and defining the future trading relationship, particularly around services, will now be at the forefront, as the next priorities get ironed out.

“Businesses who have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach to Brexit need to get the ball rolling on their plans and be prepared for all scenarios. The impact on supply chains and access to talent are high on the agenda. However, companies shouldn’t overlook the direct and indirect effect on data flows, funding requirements and maintaining contract coverage. Ultimately, businesses need to be ready to adapt to whatever outcome – those that can do so quickly will be the winners in the long-term. Uncertainty will continue for some time so our recommendation is that businesses maintain their focus upon planning for a wide range of outcomes.”


Carolyn Fairbairn

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, says:

“After 20 months of debate, this agreement by Cabinet is progress. 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.

“More clarity on the final relationship is needed, and uncertainty remains high, but this is an important step forward. Transition and the backstop are not the intended permanent solutions for either side, but should pave the way for more work on the future deal. This must secure frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services, and a say over future rules.

“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.”


Mike Cherry

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, says:

“With 20 weeks left until exit day, many small businesses will be relieved to finally see some progress being made. An agreed draft Withdrawal Agreement is a significant step back from the cliff edge which would result in a chaotic no deal Brexit that would be deeply damaging and dangerous for our small firms.

“If this deal passes parliament, small businesses will be given the security of a transition period which will allow them to carry on operating as they do now from the 29th of March 2019 until at least the end of 2020. This brings with it some certainty that our small businesses have craved. It will hopefully lead to businesses pushing the go button on investment decisions that have been on pause as they waited for a better understanding of the medium term trading landscape post Brexit day.

“Negotiations must now move quickly onto nailing down our future trading relationship with the EU post July 2020. Whatever option is agreed upon, it is essential that our small firms are given sufficient time and support to prepare for any changes.

“A deal is now on the table and it is important that the UK Government and EU press ahead as this is the best chance of avoiding a catastrophic cliff edge that would disproportionately harm smaller businesses who are the engine of the UK economy.”


Stephen Martin

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, says:

“Business leaders have been desperate for this stage of the negotiations to reach a conclusion, and although it has taken longer than firms would have liked, it is clear definitive progress been made between the UK and EU. It is particularly welcome that the Cabinet has now come to an agreement on the withdrawal text and the outline of the future framework. We look forward to a summit at the end of this month where we can finally say to our members that the ink is dry on this deal.

“We urge all politicians 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. 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.”