Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
London, United Kingdom (4E) – Leading business and industry groups in the United Kingdom are bracing for the severe consequences of a no-deal Brexit vote in Parliament next week, and intend to confront this painful reality with a mix of public interventions and outright revolt.
UK MP’s will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union on Jan. 15. May’s deal is widely expected to be defeated.
MPs in the House of Commons will try to block May’s government from leaving the European Union on March 29 without a deal — and this seems the likeliest scenario. On Tuesday evening, MPs voted 303-296 for an amendment that will block the Treasury carrying out basic tasks like changing tax rates if it pursues a no-deal Brexit.
Business Secretary Greg Clark became the first senior figure in May’s government to say he will resign if a no-deal Brexit is pursued. He told MPs that leaving without a deal “should not be contemplated.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told a meeting of May’s Cabinet that history would take “a dim view” of the government if it allowed a no-deal Brexit to take place.
The confusion and disarray in May’s government is doing nothing to assuage the fears of an increasingly anxious business community.
The business community is preparing to “rise up with their pitchforks” next week if MPs vote to reject the Withdrawal Agreement next week. Craig Beaumont, Head of External Affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said May’s government should consider delaying Brexit if May’s deal is rejected by the House on Tuesday.
“Whatever happens next, we want to avoid a chaotic no-deal on March 29 and secure the transition that we asked for and won from both sides. We can only get that with a deal,” he said. “So in that scenario, an extension of Article 50 should be considered so a deal can be found.”
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has drawn-up a list of emergency “mini-deals” it will publicly call on the government to arrange with Brussels to limit the disruption of a no-deal Brexit. The FTA’s most important demands are permits for UK truck drivers to travel to the EU; measures to prevent planes being grounded and avoiding changes to VAT rules, which will be particularly costly for small businesses.
“The government cannot sleep until we have these things by March 2019,” said James Hookham, FTA’s Deputy Chief Executive.
“I’m not going to let the logistics industry take the fall for political indulgence. It’ll be messy, expensive and not end well, and caused by people who suffer from ignorance or privilege. Or both.”
One of Britain’s biggest industry groups confirmed it also plans a public intervention while other groups and trade associations are determining how they’ll respond to May’s deal being rejected. A senior figure at another top business group said it was preparing for “the severity of the situation to increase significantly” next week.
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