The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned today that British firms are not ready for a no-deal Brexit – and said their preparations have been “hampered by unclear advice, timelines, cost and complexity”.
The business group also said that neither the Government nor the EU were adequately prepared for a no-deal scenario.
After carrying out thousands of interviews with UK companies, the CBI said in a new report: “There are no areas of relevance to the economy where the UK, the EU and the business community are all prepared well enough for no deal.”
The group found that larger businesses, particularly in the financial services sector, are more likely to have contingency plans than smaller firms, but none have been able to plan properly, because of poor political leadership.
Working on a no-deal ‘assumption’
In The Sunday Times yesterday, Michael Gove – charged with planning for a possible no-deal Brexit by new Prime Minister Boris Johnson – wrote that the Government is now working on the “assumption” that the UK will leave the EU without a deal.
The Daily Telegraph reports today that Johnson has set up a complicated structure of three no-deal committees which will try to ready the country to leave the EU without any future deal for trade or other relations with the bloc.
One committee will provide daily briefings on progress using the Cabinet Office’s Cobra briefing room, usually reserved for emergencies such as terrorist attacks, the newspaper says. Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is to start work on a trade deal with the US this week.
At the same time, the Government is planning the biggest public information campaign since the Second World War, the Telegraph says, spending as much as £100m on advertising in the next three months alone.
Chancellor Sajid Javid promised in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday that he will provide “significant extra funding” for 500 extra Border Force officers. He also said the Treasury was looking at “new infrastructure around our ports to minimise congestion and ensure goods can flow”.
How prepared are we?
The BBC reports that the CBI found neither the UK nor the EU is ready for a no-deal Brexit. A Government spokesperson, however, hailed the CBI’s findings as “a constructive contribution”, adding that “Crucially, while there is more to do, the CBI observes that the UK is ahead of the EU in planning for no deal.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, CBI deputy director Josh Hardie compared the process of preparing for no-deal to damage limitation. He said: “If you see a storm coming, you put down the sandbags. It doesn’t mean you’re going to stop all the flood water. You’ll probably still lose the kitchen but you might save the bedroom – and that’s where we are right now.”
The report marks a “significant shift in tone” from the CBI, according to The Times, showing that business leaders are now “ready to face up” to the reality of a no-deal Brexit.
Rishi Sunak, the new chief secretary to the Treasury, has told Sky News: “We are prepared to enter into negotiations with the spirit of friendship and determination but if the EU doesn’t want to do that it is right we are absolutely prepared for that. We are turbo-charging preparations for no deal. That is now the government’s number one priority.”