The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has thrown its support behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to leave the EU with or without a Brexit trade deal come December 2020.
Often vocal in its opposition to the government’s stance on a no-deal Brexit, the CBI today welcomed Johnson’s decision to block any further Brexit delay, saying it offers businesses clarity.
“Business has had enough of uncertainty and shares the Prime Minister’s ambition for a fast EU trade deal,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director-general.
Johnson is expected to amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to rule out any extension to the transition period beyond the end of 2020, the current deadline to reach a Brexit trade deal.
Sterling sank 1.14 per cent this afternoon to hit $1.315 in response, giving up its post-election gains as the threat of a no-deal Brexit reared its head yet again.
But Fairbairn said: “Speed and ambition can go hand in hand if the right approach is taken.
“There’s no time to lose, with a top priority being to build a best-in-class trade architecture, with business round the table, enabling EU trade talks to begin early in the new year.
“Firms stand ready to bring the evidence needed from factories and boardrooms across the UK to enable a good trade deal to be agreed as quickly as possible.”
British Chambers of Commerce director general, Dr Adam Marshall, said: “If businesses are to have the smoothest possible transition to new trading arrangements, ministers need to work with us at pace to get the detail right.”
“The focus has got to be on getting concrete answers to the real-world questions facing business and the economy – and avoiding the prospect of a messy and disorderly scenario later this year.” he said.
It comes as new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would begin trade talks with the UK early in January.
“We agreed to launch negotiations asap on future EU-UK partnership,” she tweeted. “We will meet at the beginning of 2020. The UK will always be a friend, partner and ally.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The president congratulated the Prime Minister on his success in the election and they agreed to work together with great energy to agree a future partnership by December 2020.”
Markets were buoyed by the Prime Minister’s 80-margin majority after last week’s General Election, with the pound climbing to a two-year high.
But the FTSE and sterling dropped back today after City A.M. and other publications reported that Johnson would not use his majority to pursue a softer Brexit.
In fact, he is set to ditch concessions made to parliament before the election that could let MPs force a further delay to Brexit by extending the transition period past next December.
Johnson will insist upon leaving the EU with or without a Brexit trade deal come December 2020 when he puts the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before MPs on Friday.
Chief market analyst at Markets.com, Neil Wilson, said: “This sets up another cliff-edge and could create yet more months of uncertainty for investors just when we thought all was squared away.”
But Fairbarn said: “With only a year to go, we are committed to working with the government to secure an ambitious deal that supports all sectors of the economy. Every step in the negotiations will have an impact on jobs, firms and communities.”