- Business chiefs from five top lobby groups warn on Brexit cliff-edge without a transition deal.
- Companies warn they are about to make investment and contingency plans for 2018.
- Next phase of negotiations now not expected until Xmas, two months after originally tabled.
LONDON — UK business chiefs urged Brexit Secretary David Davis to negotiate a transition deal soon to ease the exit from the European Union or risk damaging investment and trade, according to a report in the Guardian.
Five of the UK’s biggest trade groups united to warn the government to sign a deal to maintain aspects of European Union membership during a period after March 2019 before firms make investment and budget decisions for 2018.
“We need agreement of transitional arrangements as soon as possible, as without urgent agreement many companies have serious decisions about investment and contingency plans to take at the start of 2018,” the business groups, including the Confederation of British Industry, wrote.
“Failure to agree a transition period of at least two years could have wide-reaching and damaging consequences for investment and trade, as firms review their investment plans and business strategies.”
The UK has not been able to start talks with the EU on its future trading relationship, with issues such as the Northern Ireland border, citizens’ rights, and the divorce bill yet to be resolved.
European Council president Donald Tusk said last week that the EU would begin internal talks about trade but would not begin formal negotiations with Britain until later in the year.
A spokesperson for the Department for Exiting the EU told the Guardian: “We are making real and tangible progress in a number of vital areas in negotiations. However, many of the issues that remain are linked to the discussions we need to have on our future relationship.”
“That is why we are pleased that the EU has now agreed to start internal preparatory discussions on the framework for transitional arrangements as well as our future partnership.”
The lack of clarity over how the UK will manage its exit from the EU has worried finance firms and other businesses. Last week Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein spelled out the bank’s post-Brexit plans for Europe in a Tweet.
“Just left Frankfurt,” he tweeted. “Great meetings, great weather, really enjoyed it. Good, because I’ll be spending a lot more time there. #Brexit.”