Industry leaders call on Theresa May to extend Article 50 as no-deal Brexit becomes ‘stark reality’

Industry leaders have called on Theresa May to extend Article 50 in a last-ditch effort to save UK businesses from a no-deal Brexit.

(Photo: Raul Mee/Flickr)

Kate Nicholls, the head of industry group UKHospitality, said that a no-deal Brexit is now a “stark reality” after MPs voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement on 15 January with a majority of 230 votes — the biggest government defeat in history.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence in the government immediately after the meaningful vote last night. MPs will vote on whether they want May’s government to continue to manage the EU’s exit from the EU tonight.

Crashing out of the EU without prearranged trade agreements, she said, would be “disastrous for the British economy and a hospitality sector.”

“There can be no delay, faced with such a stark outlook, for politicians to focus on working together to take any and all measures possible to ensure that British consumers are not in the direct firing line of the consequences of food and drink supply chain chaos and the price rises that would inevitably ensue.

“If that means delaying implementation of Article 50 then ideological differences must be put aside for the sake of pragmatic economic benefit.”

Responding to the vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said it is “vital that the political leadership find a way to indicate what alternative should be pursued.”

“We are calling for an extension to the transition period in order for parliament to decide what our next steps are; whether that is a new deal, a referendum, an orderly exit from the EU without a deal at a later date, or a general election.

“The Government should now be looking to speak with representative organisations such as the FDF, to ensure they are pursuing an alternative that prevents further damage to the UK’s wider economy.”

Miles Beale, the chief executive of the WSTA, also called on an extension to Article 50 to give ministers more time to come up with an agreement that could satisfy a majority of parliament members.

Taking into account the landslide defeat of the government’s bill, he said “extending Article 50 is necessary to ensure Parliament can agree on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”

“The WSTA has been consistent in calling on the Government and all MPs to avoid a hugely damaging ‘no deal’ exit on 29 March and to ensure that business can continue to trade as now,” he said.

Last month, Beale called the cabinet’s preparations for a managed no-deal Brexit “absurd.”

“A no deal scenario would cause delays at the border, restrict movement of people, exacerbate significant cashflow challenges for businesses, especially SMEs, and create massive uncertainty for both businesses and consumers – an outcome the WSTA deems totally unacceptable and unnecessary.

“The Wine and Spirit Trade Association called for a suspension on wine tariffs earlier this month for bottles imported into the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit, to prevent the price of wine “sky rocketing” to an all-time high.

Around 55% of wine consumed in the UK is imported from the EU, and 45% of spirits exports are sent to the EU, according to the WSTA. “Businesses will need time to adapt to any new future trading arrangements,” Beale said, “and time is running out.”

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