Chancellor Philip Hammond has accused businesses of burying their heads in the sand when it comes to preparing for a no deal Brexit.
Speaking just four days before the UK could potentially leave the EU without an agreement, the chancellor warned some firms had adopted an ostrich mentality over the potential outcome of the Brexit talks.
One industry boss, Miles Beales, chief executive of the wine and spirit trade association, was furious with the remarks.
“The government is pointing the finger at everyone but itself. Blaming businesses for not preparing is downright insulting, especially when they are expected to spend time and money with no clarity or confidence in the outcome,” he said.
Hammond made the remarks after former Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris asked if businesses were ready for ‘no deal’.
The chancellor replied that some companies had been stockpiling goods and products, but added: “It is also the case as my honourable friend knows very well from his work as a minister, that despite Government’s attempts to engage with business there are still far too many businesses who have adopted the famous approach of the ostrich in the sand in relation to this eventuality and they are not taking precautionary actions to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal exit.”
Beales claimed companies in his industry have been working hard to prepare for a ‘no deal’, with some even changing their business models completely.
He added: "With just three days to go before the UK could be forced to leave the EU without a deal, many of our questions to government are still met with ‘we don’t know’ and new advice on how to manage a no-deal Brexit is too little too late.
"Civil servants are listening and working hard to try and advise businesses, but Government has led us to a cliff edge without a parachute.
"After well over a year of patience, businesses deserve a clear roadmap to plan for the future trading landscape.”