A senior minister yesterday suggested the UK may use EU law in order to deliver Brexit by Halloween.
Confirming revelations in City A.M., foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the Mail on Sunday that EU law supersedes UK law and so in theory the 31 October departure date, enshrined in European law, would be unaffected by UK legislation demanding the government delay Brexit.
As reported in this newspaper, this “legal wheeze” has support among senior Downing Street aides.
It came as a new poll from Santander revealed more than a third of British businesses still have no plans in place for Brexit.
With just weeks to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, 35 per cent of companies said they have no Brexit strategy, rising to 54 per cent among firms that operate solely in the UK.
The figures, published in the bank’s latest trade barometer, highlight the amount of preparation still needed ahead of the Halloween Brexit deadline.
Almost half of businesses that have put plans in place expect to reduce costs, with a third expecting to reduce headcount and raise prices.
Nearly a quarter are considering moving some business functions overseas, while one in ten are considering relocating their business entirely.
“It’s concerning that with just weeks to go, so many businesses still have no Brexit plans in place, even though two thirds of businesses say it is already impacting them,” said John Carroll, head of international and transactional banking at Santander UK.
“Brexit could have implications for companies of all sizes, regardless of whether they currently trade internationally, so it’s crucial that every business considers what it may mean for them.”
The barometer revealed UK business confidence has fallen to the lowest level since the research started three years ago, with faltering confidence largely blamed on Brexit uncertainty.
Just 22 per cent on businesses said they were very confident of growth over the next three years, while 19 per cent said they were pessimistic or very pessimistic.
However, the research showed almost 40 per cent are already looking to increase trade with non-EU countries as part of their plans for growth after Brexit.
The US, China and Australia topped the list of the most-desired trade deals and were considered the regions with the most growth potential over the next year.
“For businesses with little or no experience of trading internationally, expanding into overseas markets can understandably be a daunting process, so it’s encouraging to see more and more businesses are looking to seize exciting trade opportunities with non-EU countries like the US and China,” Carroll added.
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