12 December 2018

The Prime Minister’s decision to delay Parliament’s “meaningful vote” on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration has been widely condemned by leading business groups as adding to the uncertainty about how they are supposed to prepare for Brexit.

While they might understand the political reasons for the delay, Institute of Directors (IoD) Director General Stephen Martin said, to businesses across the country it looks like yet another extension of the frustration and indecision that has characterised the Brexit process.

According to Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): “Firms are looking on with utter dismay at the ongoing saga in Westminster, and express concern that politicians are seemingly acting in their own interest, with little regard for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the success of UK business and trade.”

CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn joined the chorus of complaint, describing the Prime Minister’s decision as yet another blow for companies desperate for clarity.

Unless a deal is agreed quickly, she warned, the country risks sliding towards a national crisis.

For the British Ports Association (BPA), Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne warned that the roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) ports which facilitate tens of thousands of lorry and trailers movements between Britain and Europe every day could face real challenges.

What these challenges might entail was put into focus by Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), who told a meeting with French businesses and officials in Lille that one haulier might have 8000 different shipments on a lorry.

With each requiring an import and export declaration, and a Safety and Security Declaration, and with 3000 trucks a week crossing the Channel for that one firm, he went on, that would mean millions of pieces of paperwork.