LONDON — Senior figures within the world of British business have been left “aghast” at the government’s approach to Brexit, according to a Financial Times report.
Downing Street is thought to be consulting both individual businesses as well as lobbying groups to inform its negotiations with the EU, but one boss of a FTSE 100 company told the Financial Times that he was “aghast” at how little progress was being made in doing so.
“Time is running out, and we need some clarity, some answers,” the unnamed business leader told the newspaper.
Businesses expressed concern at the lack of preparation ahead of the second round of negotiations, which began on Monday morning.
Earlier in July, some of the UK’s most powerful business lobbyists and executives met with Brexit Secretary at Chevening, the official country residence of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to discuss what the business community wants from Brexit.
Officials were reportedly impressed by the government’s level of engagement but disappointed that no firm positions have been taken on policy, according to attendees of the meeting.
“We hoped that there would be some concrete policy announcements from Chevening, so it was disappointing when that didn’t happen,” an attendee told the FT.
One of the major demands of British business groups is that the UK sees a significant transition period for leaving the EU — where Britain has a handful of years to adjust to new rules and avoids a so-called “cliff edge” Brexit.
A recent survey from the British Chambers of Commerce showed that 46% of businesses want a transition period of three years, while a further 22% want a transition longer than that.
“By more than three to one, businesses want a transition period on the way to a final agreement with the EU. This is critical to prevent firms facing the prospect of repeated, costly adjustments to new trading conditions,” Dr Adam Marshall, the BCC’s director general said in a statement alongside those findings.
The Confederation of British Industry, probably the UK’s most powerful business lobby, is one of those groups calling for a transition period.
“Our proposal is for the UK to seek to stay in the single market and a customs union until a final deal is in force. This would create a bridge to the new trading arrangement that, for businesses, feels like the road they are on,” Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director general, said in a speech at the beginning of the month.