Businesses issue Theresa May with Brexit ultimatum, warning they're "extremely concerned" about progress so far

 
Catherine Neilan
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Business groups have told Theresa May progress must be made in Brexit talks ahead of the critical European Council meeting next month, saying they are "extremely concerned" about what's been achieved so far.

The Prime Minister met with groups including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD), as well as European organisations such as BusinessEurope to discuss the UK's withdrawal from the European Union just days after the latest round of negotiations ended at another impasse.

The groups called on May and Brexit secretary David Davis to ensure a transitional period, with the UK remaining in the Single Market and customs union, was agreed "to avoid a cliff edge [and] provide citizens and businesses with greater certainty", said Emma Marcegaglia, president of BusinessEurope.

“In order to achieve this goal, we urge the UK government to make good on its Florence commitments by providing concrete proposals on the three issues critical for talks to move to the next phase including citizens’ rights, the situation of Ireland and the financial settlement. Equally, the EU should look constructively on these proposals once received," she added.

“Gaining momentum as we head into the new year will provide companies with the confidence they need to continue contributing to prosperity right across Europe in these uncertain times.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said the meeting was "a welcome opportunity to highlight the mutual importance of seeing real progress before Christmas".

"All business organisations present reiterated the damage a ‘no-deal’ scenario would do to trade," she added. “A transition period reflecting the current arrangements remains the priority on both sides of the Channel. While businesses welcomed the Prime Minister’s Florence speech, we now need to move beyond warm words if jobs, investment and living standards are to be protected.

“Moving to the next phase will enable discussions to gather momentum, so negotiators can focus on the future economic relationship. It’s in everyone’s interests that a good, unique final deal reflects the strength and depth of our existing relationship and integration. This will help promote prosperity and better living standards right across Europe for generations to come.”

A government spokesman said May had "reassured the group that Brexit meant the UK was leaving the EU, not Europe" and that she was seeking "free and frictionless trade".

Davis told businesses they had an important role to play and "underlined that economic considerations should be to the fore in the negotiations", the spokesman added.

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