28 August 2018

Anyone who has seen Grease will remember the chorus in this headline and it seems to have echoed round the country last week as business organisations looked at the Government’s “no Brexit deal” warnings and decided that they lacked detail.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), set the tone when he said: “The technical notices being published by the UK government are a good start, but businesses still need more detailed information to trade as smoothly as possible across borders if there is no UK-EU deal on March 30th next year.”

Several of the responses also pointed out that, while the information provided was useful, the prospect of no deal was one to be avoided at all costs.

CBI Deputy Director-General Josh Hardie said: “By now, few can be in any doubt that ‘no deal’ would wreak havoc on economies across Europe. These papers show that those who claim crashing out of the EU on World Trade Organisation rules is acceptable live in a world of fantasy, where facts are not allowed to challenge ideology.”

On a positive note, the decision to allow importers to defer VAT payments was gratefully received by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.

Pointing out that small firms will be the least able to cope with a cliff-edge Brexit, the Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, called for solid guidance and support from the Government over the coming weeks.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady called on the Prime Minister to “throw out her red lines” and “face down the extremists in her party” in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit that would be “devastating for working people”.

“These papers confirm that a no-deal Brexit is not a credible option,” she concluded.

Finally, the two main haulage organisations were united in calling for more detailed information and in spelling out the consequences if the Government fails to reach agreement with the EU.

This would turn the Garden of England into the UK’s biggest lorry park, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), while the Freight Transport Association (FTA) warned that “no deal” would be disastrous for logistics.

“There are clear problems which could face our supply chain if agreements cannot be reached,” the FTA’s European Policy Manager, Sarah Laouadi said, “including customs and border arrangements, the continuity of trade agreements and vehicle permits, as well as the continuation of business access to EU workers.”