Helen Dickinson outside half smile Jan13 38-web

Source: The Grocer

‘It is imperative for both businesses and households that we avoid leaving the EU without a deal,’ said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson

The UK is heading for chaos unless politicians come together to take a no-deal Brexit off the table, business leaders said today. Some have called for a “long extension” to Brexit to allow the country to recover from its current chaos.

After the latest defeat for Theresa May’s withdrawal deal, by 58 votes today, industry bosses expressed exasperation at the continuing uncertainty, with just two weeks to go before the latest date for a no-deal.

With the Commons due to vote on possible alternatives on Monday, including the UK staying in the EU Customs Union, and with No 10 insisting the PM’s deal is not yet dead, they warned companies in the meantime faced untenable disruption, with EU heads saying a no-deal was a likely outcome of today’s vote.

“It is imperative for both businesses and households that we avoid leaving the EU without a deal,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC.

“A no-deal Brexit would mean higher prices and less choice on the shelves. Parliamentarians must come together to find a mechanism to take no-deal off the table completely.

“There are still options open to MPs and they must get behind one of them. The country needs certainty and a legal guarantee against the chaos that will inevitably result from no deal.

“Businesses are paying the price of the political uncertainty. Time and money is being spent, irrecoverably, preparing for a no-deal scenario that most people, businesses and politicians do not want to see.”

FDF chief executive Ian Wright added: “After today’s vote, parliament must lead us out of our current shambles. It is time to press the reset button and seek a long extension to our EU exit.

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“Business - particularly food and drink - requires a stable operating environment and a clear path forward. On Monday parliament must create both.”

Pauline Bastidon, head of European policy at the FTA, said: “The risk of a no-deal departure from the EU is heightened after today’s rejection of the government’s proposed withdrawal agreement.

“FTA therefore continues to advise its members to keep preparing themselves for the disruptive impact of a no-deal Brexit in less than two weeks’ time.

“This is no menial task: logistics and supply chain managers in the UK will face what is possibly their biggest challenge in a generation.

“However, FTA welcomes the temporary easements conceded by both sides. While logistics will do its best to meet the challenge, the costs and disruptions to supply chains generated by a no-deal outcome - which go well beyond potential delays at the border - should not be underestimated.”

Despite the FDF’s call for a long delay, WSTA CEO Miles Beale said businesses could not cope with any more delays to the process.

“Today was the third occasion on which the government’s withdrawal agreement has failed to attract the support of a majority of MPs in the House of Commons. Like most businesses, those in the UK wine and spirit industry are beginning to despair over how to complete essential tasks, such as plan their movement of goods.

“Many firms had to reschedule shipments either side of the original Brexit deadline - unnecessarily as it turns out, and it remains very hard to plan. Businesses cannot sustain any more delays and they need some clear direction. Parliament and government have got to get a grip and find a consensus which moves us forward before the growing damage is irreversible.”