Business leaders are to issue a fresh warning to ministers not to jeopardise Britain’s trade with Europe through “brinksmanship” in the Brexit negotiations.
In a keynote address, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director general Adam Marshall will say any further delay in opening trade talks risks creating a “lose-lose scenario” for both sides.
His comments come as the fifth round of negotiations in Brussels draws to a close with the two sides still apparently deadlocked over the terms of Britain’s withdrawal.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has made clear the EU is not prepared to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal until there is further progress on the issues of citizens’ rights, the border with Ireland and the UK’s “divorce bill”.
Speaking at the BCC’s international trade summit in Birmingham, Mr Marshall will say that it would be “unforgivable” if the entrenched positions taken by the two sides ended up damaging their thriving trade relationship.
“I want to urge both the UK Government and the EU27 to strain every sinew to move ahead, and put trade and transition at the heart of negotiations by the end of 2017,” he will say.
“European businesses need clarity. British businesses need clarity. Third country businesses need clarity – with American, Japanese, Australian, Indian and Canadian firms pressing for this.
“Further delays to trade and transition talks would create a lose-lose scenario for everyone with a stake in the game.
“It would be unforgivable for politicians on either side of the Channel to privilege brinksmanship and disruption over thriving trade.”
Mr Marshall will also denounce the “demonisation” of business by politicians from across the political spectrum in order to boost their poll ratings.
“In recent years, an entrepreneur could be forgiven for thinking that the British political establishment had turned lock stock and barrel against business,” he will say.
“While politicians exhort businesses to trade more overseas, new input costs are piled on firms year after year without a second thought, our trading infrastructure continues to creak at the seams, and party leaders compete with each other to demonstrate who can wag their finger most furiously at corporate Britain.
“Yet we must not tolerate the demonisation of business because it improves political poll ratings.
“Nor should we tolerate policy decisions that make it harder for our trading businesses to grow at such an important time.”