Business leaders and industry groups turned on the government yesterday over its apparent lack of contingency plans in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.
Following a meeting hosted by business secretary Sajid Javid the director general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, warned that the government was a “long way” from having a clear plan for its negotiations with the EU, adding: "No one is coming out of these meetings feeling great.”
Fairbairn attended along with 20 representatives from business groups including the Institute of Directors (IoD), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the manufactures organisation the EEF.
Commenting on the apparent paralysis in government decision making, Adam Marshall, acting director general of the BCC, said:
Businesses are disappointed that the government can't give more assurances on what it will be doing to support confidence over the next few months, particularly given that such decisions – such as infrastructure projects – are in the government's hands.
Ministers were also accused of being out of touch with the concerns of businesses around the referendum.
A source who attended yesterday's meeting accused Javid of "paying lip service to the business community," telling City A.M. "It appeared he didn't understand the gravity of the situation".
The source went on to lament the “appalling level of engagement with the business community" throughout the referendum campaign.
Business groups have demanded a new framework for how they dealt with the government in light of the Brexit vote.
Following the meeting, Javid said securing access to the European Union's single market is the top priority for negotiations.
"The biggest issue raised was the need to secure continued access to the single market. While I am not in any position to make promises, I assured everyone that my number one priority will be just that in the negotiations to come," Javid told a news conference after the meeting.
Businesses also stressed the need to push on with major infrastructure commitments.
Another issue raised was the importance of recognising how insecure EU migrants feel in the country following the vote. An attendee said: “Everyone hoped there would be action on this.”
Fairbairn said: “Right now, businesses are watching and waiting to see what the government will do. Many of our members said they still have plans for international trade they want to go ahead with, and intend to do so.”