Business leaders warn Theresa May against 'hard Brexit'

BUSINESS leaders have demanded that Theresa May takes action to rule out the “worst aspects” of a hard Brexit break with the EU as it would do serious and lasting damage to the economy.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said it was a matter of urgency because uncertainty was impacting on investment decisions.

Fairbairn warned it was crucial for ministers to state that Britain would not be reduced to the basic tariff arrangements set down by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) when it is expected to exit the EU in 2019, and that the passporting system allowing easy access for service industries would stay in place.

She added: “What we would like is the ruling out of the really worst options. The falling into WTO rules in only 29 months from now, which is the prospective timetable, would mean up to 90 per cent of goods could potentially have tariffs on them. There would not be the passports for our service industry.

“The urgency is around investment. It is the investment decisions that are being taken now that make this urgent,” she said.

Fairbairn said some of the messages coming out of last week’s Tory conference were not helpful for business.

Her remarks come after business leaders with the CBI and manufacturing body the EEF signed an open letter warning of the dangers of a hard Brexit as they urged the Government to “give certainty” on the issue.

The letter said: “We respect the result of the referendum, but the Government must make sure that the terms of the deal to leave ensure stability, prosperity and improved living standards.”

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