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"Stop this circus" - business groups 'exasperated' by latest Brexit hold-up

Major UK business groups, including the British Retail Consortium (BRC), have responded angrily to the result of Tuesday’s meaningful vote on the European Union (EU) Withdrawal Agreement which casts yet more uncertainty over future trading.

British MPs are today (Wednesday 13 March) set to vote on blocking a no-deal Brexit after prime minister Theresa May’s latest EU withdrawal plans were rejected in Parliament.

A free vote for Conservative MPs on whether they are willing for the UK to leave the EU without a deal at the end of the month will take place in the evening.

But for businesses looking for clarity around trading rules and regulations once the UK has left the EU – which is currently meant to be less than two weeks away, on 29 March – these delays and this constant Parliamentary in-fighting are causing major concern.

Fears that consumers will look to stockpile goods due to the uncertain environment are real, and many retail businesses have brought forward purchasing of stock as they look to minimise the impact a no deal Brexit might have on their supply chains. The truth is that no-one can say with certainty what costs, administration and processes will be attached to the movement of goods once Britain has left the EU.

Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, commented: “Even as the Brexit clock approaches midnight, MPs continue to squabble.

“Yet it is the public who will feel the impact of a no deal Brexit – tariffs, non-tariff barriers and currency depreciation will all push up costs and reduce the choice on the shelves we currently enjoy.”

She added: “Businesses are exasperated by the lack of clarity over their future trading arrangements. Hundreds of ships are currently sailing towards Britain without a clear understanding of the tariffs, checks, or documentation requirements, they will face when they arrive.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “Enough is enough.

“This must be the last day of failed politics. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it.”

The CBI chief continued: “Extending Article 50 to close the door on a March no-deal is now urgent.

“It should be as short as realistically possible and backed by a clear plan. Conservatives must consign their red lines to history, while Labour must come to the table with a genuine commitment to solutions. It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus.”

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