Theresa May is being warned that businesses are running out of patience on the lack of Brexit clarity, more than two years after the vote to leave the EU.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged politicians to cast aside “squabbling” and work in the national economic interest to remove uncertainty over tax, tariffs, customs and regulation.
The lobby group intervened in the debate as the PM prepares to host a key cabinet Brexit meeting at Chequers on Friday at which key negotiating positions are expected to be agreed.
The BCC’s frustration echoes that expressed by Airbus and BMW last week – companies which then faced criticism for speaking out from ministers including Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox.
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Boris Johnson reportedly said “F*** business” in response.
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Sky News reported on Monday how the government had since moved to smooth relations with business through an invitation for top companies to hold talks with the Brexit secretary David Davis.
BCC director-general, Adam Marshall, warned that a lack of decisions had resulted in a significant slowdown in business investment.
He said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient.
“We have supported the Government’s drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy.
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“We have given time, expertise and real-world experience to support hard-pressed Civil Service negotiators.
“We have convened all across the UK to ensure that every business community’s Brexit concerns can be heard by elected representatives and officials.
“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU, business patience is reaching breaking point.
“Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.
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“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum.
“It’s time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first.
“These are not ‘siren voices’ or special interests. They are the practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK.”
The BCC argued that firms had clarity on only two of 23 key Brexit questions it had compiled.
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The government said it was confident of getting a deal to ensure trade would remain “as free and frictionless aspossible”.
The spokesperson added: “Ministers continue to work closely with business to understand their concerns and by successfully negotiating the implementation period with the EU until December 2020, companies can carry on trading with confidence on the same terms as they do now”.