21 November 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May has received more enthusiastic support from trade bodies with regard to her Brexit agreement with the European Commission than she has from her backbench colleagues or even her Cabinet.

As she had lost two members of the Cabinet (at the time of writing), including the Brexit Secretary, this was clearly not going to be too difficult but, even so, she must have been gratified at the much warmer reception the long-awaited agreement received in the business world.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Chairman Mike Cherry said: “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.”

Peter Ward, CEO of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), went further and called on his members to contact their MPs and voice support for the Brexit deal.

“While recognising that the withdrawal agreement tabled by the Government is not perfect, and includes areas of compromise, if this is the mechanism that allows us to get over the line into a transition agreement, we welcome it,” he said.

For the Institute of Directors (IoD), Director General Stephen Martin urged all politicians to think long and hard about how they react to this first-stage agreement.

He particularly welcomed the provision that has been made for an extension to the transition period, which may, Mr Martin noted, 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.

For the CBI, Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn set out her own red lines: “We need frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services and a transition period which draws us back from the cliff edge. Anything less than that and jobs and investment could suffer.”