PM can’t dance away business fears of Brexit brinkmanship

In her conference speech today Theresa May declared the Conservatives were the party to “back business”. She also said she was not afraid to leave the EU with no deal. And that’s precisely what is worrying businesses throughout the UK.

In boardrooms and office canteens up and down the country the prime minister’s plans for Brexit are already causing real damage to jobs, investment and opportunities.

InFacts has spent the last few months talking with businesses across the UK about their Brexit concerns.

Some of their stories have appeared on our website already. The tale of , managing director of a heating and air conditioning firm, who says his whole business model could be shot to bits by delays at the ports. Or , the owner of two shops in the Vale of Glamorgan struggling with a massive increase in costs generated by the calamitous post-referendum fall in the value of sterling.

We have spoken to farmers concerned about new export rules, clogged up ports and shortages of vets. And to restaurateurs worried about staffing their kitchens and front of house. Ending the movement of low-skilled EU workers, by the way, was another theme of May’s speech.

Medical wholesalers, oil company executives, grocers and truck drivers have all had stories to tell about how a no-deal Brexit or the fudged half-way house of Chequers will inflict real damage on their businesses.

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52% of employers in the North East expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their business, a survey for the found. Its chief executive, James Ramsbottom, warned that the government was “missing the far larger risks associated with Brexit and sleepwalking into economic disaster”.

In Oxford, are shutting their plant for a month after Brexit day in March, worried about the cost of delays and disruption to their supply chain and refusing to believe reassurances from hardline Brexiters that borders will remain open to their components. Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall, Toyota and Unipart have also all warned of a Brexit hit.

In every area of the economy, for every business you talk to, the impact of Brexit and the mishandling of the talks, is a recurring theme and a constant concern.

Today May told her party conference in Birmingham that her Chequers proposal is the answer to frictionless borders, access to global markets and building a migration policy which enables our factories, farms and businesses to get the workers they need.

Never mind that she has already been told by the EU that it will not work, or as she put it herself, that Chequers is “very challenging for the EU”. Hardline Brexiter Tories in the European Research Group  have pledged to vote against the deal. Labour’s six tests look unlikely to be passed. The danger of crashing out without any deal and crippling business is looking increasingly likely.

Today May said her Chequers strategy meant Britain would be “open for business”. But the reality for actual business people running actual businesses is very different. It’s the reality of two lost years of uncertainty being followed by an act of economic self-harm as we crash over May’s cliff edge Brexit.

With the prime minister full steam ahead for the Brexit precipice, it’s little wonder many businesses are coming to the conclusion that the only way out of this mess is a People’s Vote.

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