British businesses do not have the “resilience” to cope with a no deal Brexit after the “crushing” blow of coronavirus, the outgoing boss of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned. Dame Carolyn Fairbairn spoke to LBC about why Boris Johnson and the Government had to take “responsibility” for ensuring the smooth transition for the country’s firms. Trade deal negotiations resumed between the UK and the EU at the start of the month, but have been fraught with tension.
Dame Carolyn said: “This has been such a crushing time for businesses and for communities across the country.
“The economy went into deep freeze about three months ago, it’s just beginning cautiously to come back to life.
“We are hugely concerned now with protecting jobs as the economy reopens.
“We know that we’ve left the European Union, at least politically, we now need to do so economically.”
She continued: “But business has so little resilience now as it has run down its stockpiles that it had in place for a no deal Brexit last year.
“They have gone because of COVID-19 so businesses are in no shape to cope with a no deal Brexit.
“What we really need is for negotiators on both sides to redouble efforts to get a deal as possible in late summer or early autumn so that we don’t have to set the shed on fire.
“We can get on with the task of creating jobs and come out of this terrible pandemic successfully.”
The deadline for a finalised trade deal is the end of December this year while the cut-off point for requesting an extension is the end of June.
The Prime Minister has stated multiple times that he will not apply for an extension to the transition period.
As a result, the possibility of a no deal still looms over the negotiations, and the Government are making preparations for such an outcome.
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Dame Carolyn spoke about her “worry” that coronavirus had eclipsed the “danger” of leaving without a deal.
She told LBC: “Brexit was very high up on businesses’ agendas four months ago, but they have not had a moment to think about it.
“Not only are there no preparations being put in place, it’s not even being thought about.
“I do worry that people have in a sense forgotten about the tariffs we would face, the delays at borders and the challenges we would have if our goods are no longer being valid or legal in the European Union.
“I’m afraid it is time for politicians to remember that and recognise how on its knees our economy is and I think they have a responsibility if I’m being really honest to find compromises and find a way through here.”
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