Theresa May’s plans for a further Brexit delay to allow for talks on a unity deal has prompted a terse response from a leading business group.
The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) director general Carolyn Fairbairn issued a short reaction on Twitter signalling her exasperation and scepticism after the prime minister outlined her change of strategy in a Downing Street statement after a day of cabinet meetings.
Mrs May’s new plan first involves attempts to break the parliamentary stalemate through talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
She hopes to secure enough votes from MPs on a way forward – with Labour backing – to convince EU leaders next week of the merits of another short delay that would mean the UK not participating in EU elections.
While business groups gave a cautious welcome to the domestic olive branch, Ms Fairbairn said: “Welcome steps must be breakthrough not false dawn.
“Business confidence slumping, growth stalled and UK reputation in tatters.
Welcome steps must be breakthrough not false dawn. Business confidence slumping, growth stalled & UK reputation in tatters. Tories must compromise on red lines & Labour come to table in good faith. No excuses, no time wasting, no party politics. Enough is enough.
— Carolyn Fairbairn (@cbicarolyn) April 2, 2019
“Tories must compromise on red lines and Labour come to table in good faith. No excuses, no time wasting, no party politics. Enough is enough.”
That sentiment was mirrored in statements released by other business organisations as Mrs May’s plans offered no clarity on what was to be discussed – except that the future relationship with the EU must be the focus as the withdrawal agreement with the EU could not be changed.
Major business groups had said they could live with the terms of agreement with Brussels as it was not a no-deal Brexit.
They lined up on Wednesday night to list their demands.
Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The clock is still ticking, and avoiding a messy and disorderly exit from the EU is still the top priority for our business communities.
“The government must take firm action, now, to ensure that this is not allowed to happen by default.
“Yet businesses need to see outcomes, not just more process.
“Ongoing uncertainty is having a real and negative impact on business confidence and investment all across the UK.
“The prime minister may have issued a revised road map, but business communities still have little sense of the destination. It’s like being asked to follow a sat-nav to an unknown location – with the nagging worry that the directions may yet lead to a cliff.”
Chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, Ian Wright, said: “Livelihoods are at stake, jobs are on the line. Food and drink manufacturers are spending money, time and effort trying to plan under a cloud of perpetual uncertainty.
“A further extension to Article 50 must be sufficient to allow for a new plan to emerge.
“Unless the prime minister can secure the speedy support of the leader of the opposition, another short extension would only prolong the misery for businesses and the country.”