Brexit: A Business Call to Action

As the CBI work on behalf of British businesses to get the best from Brexit, what is their take on the situation now? Stand up and let your voice be heard, writes Nigel Peters.

Yesterday I attended CBI Insight: Agreeing a Brexit deal in Europe and the UK, held to brief business leaders ahead of the meaningful vote next Tuesday. It was an excellent session led by CBI’s London Director, Ed Curzons, Senior Policy Advisor, Ben Thom, and Head of EU negotiations, Nicole Sykes.

The overriding message was clear: the situation is heading for a catastrophic mess, and it is up to us in the business community to lobby our MPs to see sense. No matter which side of the Brexit divide you sit, those of us in business must let our views be heard. No deal at this stage will be a no win for everyone: the EU, Great Britain, businesses and our people.

The CBI has made enormous inroads through meetings with European counterparts. Importantly the Director General, Carolyn G Fairburn, has met with Michael Barnier. It is clear the CBI has made a significant impact behind the scenes, driving business and commonsense into a very fractured situation.

In summary:
  • The withdrawal plan is the binding text from the Heads of State – it won’t change. The EU and Barnier believe it is complete and binding. The political declaration is mere words. Barnier will not re-negotiate.
  • If the deal fails, the Government and the EU have commenced very serious contingency planning. This will be needed for food, pharmaceuticals, financial services, data and general logistics like trade links.
  • Our politicians are incredibly divided across parties and even across common factions of remain and exit. As soon as a political imperative is made the opposition counters and commonsense does not prevail anywhere.

So what will happen?

The CBI believe that it will depend upon the scale of the defeat:

  • A small loss of less than 20 votes: the whips will drive forwards to an eventual majority
  • More than 20 but less than 70 votes: a coalition of comprise will be needed. This will not appease Brexiteers
  • A loss of greater than 70 votes could mean a leadership election, a general election, vote of no confidence and further referendums

Over to us

If ever there was time for a clear vision and commonsense it is now. As business leaders, it’s up to us help achieve this through any possible means that influences our government to do the right thing.