UK business to politicians: Stop arguing and work on orderly Brexit
Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal deal earlier this month and is set to vote on her new deal this week, although there are concerns that her "plan B" will suffer the same fate as its predecessor.
"We need put aside party politics and in the moment of need that we find ourselves in, we need to look at the bigger picture and look at what is best for the country," Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping, told Reuters.
"In the absence of a viable alternative to the Withdrawal Agreement, we continue to be heading for a no-deal scenario which is damaging, disruptive and chaotic to business, to manufacturers and consumers," Sanguinetti said.
According to KPMG head of Brexit James Stewart, many of the country's businesses are "praying for an extension of article 50" to try to avoid a no-deal scenario.
"At this stage even our most-informed clients feel as if anything could happen," he said. "They're thinking about getting products from A to B, market access and staffing up situation rooms for April. Forecasting the outcome of Brexit is a bit like trying to predict a greyhound race; there are no safe bets."
For its part, the Confederation of British Industry said the private sector was "stuck in neutral" in the quarter to January, with the balance of 608 firms that took part in its survey reporting growth of 0% - the weakest reading since April 2013.
The stagnation in overall activity reflects a combination of falling services business volumes, unchanged distribution volumes and slower manufacturing growth. Within distribution, retail volumes continued to decline last quarter, for the third consecutive month.
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said: "Our latest growth indicator suggests that momentum in the private sector remains very subdued, having edged down a gear in Q4 2018. [...] Brexit deadlock, diverted investment and low business confidence are hitting firms hard.
"Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. Politicians must come together and act at speed to protect the UK's economy." ■