PM to urge business leaders to get ready for Brexit transition end

British businesses are growing increasingly concerned a trade deal will not be in place when the transition period ends on December 31.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson will urge business leaders to step up their preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period, amid concerns that he will fail to negotiate a trade deal with the EU.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the door was “ajar” for talks to continue but the UK is calling for a fundamental change of direction from the bloc for negotiations to resume.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier was expecting a call from his Downing Street counterpart Lord Frost on Monday, though No 10 was only as specific as saying it would take place early in the week.

Lord Frost last week told Mr Barnier not to come to London for planned talks without a major change in position from EU leaders.

Mr Gove will speak to his opposite number on the UK-EU joint committee, Maros Sefcovic, in London on Monday.

British businesses are growing increasingly concerned a trade deal will not be in place when the transition period ends on December 31, meaning they will be hammered by high tariffs.

The Prime Minister and Mr Gove will call businesses with large supply chains and representative organisations on Tuesday, as the Government launches an advertising drive to warn “time is running out”.

Regardless of whether there is a deal or not, firms will no longer be operating within the single market and will need to change they way they operate.

Mr Gove said: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”

HMRC will also write to 200,000 firms who trade with the EU to set out new customs and tax rules.

Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves called for the Government to deliver the deal it promised during the general election.

“It’s all well and good asking businesses to prepare, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain and actually explain what’s going on,” she added.

“Businesses and workers have been pleading with the Government for months to get the information they need to prepare for the end of the transition period but have been too often left in the dark.”

CBI deputy director general Josh Hardie said: “Businesses are doing all they can to prepare for Brexit.

“But firms face a hat-trick of unprecedented challenges: rebuilding from the first wave of Covid-19, dealing with the resurgence of the virus and uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.

“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: “Facing the triple threat of a resurgent coronavirus, tightening restrictions and a disorderly end to the transition period, it is little wonder businesses are struggling to prepare.

“Many firms will be tired of posturing, cliff edges and deadlines, while others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“A UK-EU deal is still both possible and critical. Much may change for business at year end, but a deal would give firms more clarity so that they can plan and adjust.”

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