Brexit - what now for businesses?

Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
16th January 2019

Exasperated and let down by government is sadly the conclusion of business today following the government’s Brexit withdrawal last night being voted down in what can only be described as a totally humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister.

And added to the historic defeat - the biggest in modern parliamentary history - of our major firms, including Tesco and Amazon, really vented their anger at the result of the meaningful vote when they got a conference call from Chancellor, Philip Hammond afterwards.

We agree with them.

After two and a half years of negotiation with the EU, it now looks certain that in the words of The Sun today, Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal is 'Dead as a Dodo'.

Phil Smith, Managing Director at Business West summed up Mrs May’s humiliating defeat:

“There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.

“Basic questions of real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29”.

I couldn’t agree more talking to firms here in Gloucestershire. The government has left them floundering in a sea of Brexit uncertainty with little clarity.

Business West has been inundated with basic questions from businesses worried over Brexit and we have been trying to answer them with our Trading Through Brexit service.

Now, with just 73 days to go before we are due to leave the EU, the big question business is today asking: Where do we go now?

In my view, Article 50 may have to be extended beyond March 29.

Mrs May has to come up with another withdrawal plan by Monday that can get some sort of agreement in the Commons.

With one in three of her Tory MPs voting against her deal - just 119 of them - getting any agreement quickly looks impossible.

Without a doubt, what Boris Johnson said after the vote could be a big hurdle - getting rid of the Northern Ireland backstop.

Again, that would seem highly unlikely to be agreed by the EU.

So, there is now the chilling prospect of No Deal or No Brexit at all staring business in the face.

The EU said after the Commons vote they were still waiting to know exactly what Brexit path the UK wants to take.

And on top of that, Mrs May today faces a no confidence vote in her government.

She will almost certainly win that vote but the disastrous defeat of her Brexit deal now puts a question mark over her future and the whole future of the Tory government.

It’s 73 days and counting…

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