UK firms won't survive no-deal Brexit after virus, CBI boss warns

11 June 2020, 17:06

By Fiona Jones

UK firms will not survive no-deal Brexit after the coronavirus crisis, CBI boss told Shelagh Fogarty.

British businesses do not have the resilience to cope with a no-deal Brexit after the crushing blow of coronavirus, warned the outgoing boss of industry body CBI.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn quoted a CBI member who had likened a no-deal to "setting the shed on fire" while the house was in flames.

"The economy went into deep freeze about three months ago, it's just beginning cautiously to come back to life, she said.

Dame Carolyn told LBC she has written to the Prime Minister suggesting strategies to combat unemployment in young people who will be at an unfair disadvantage in the post-lockdown job market.

She urged that while the UK has left the EU politically, it now needs to do so economically and with a deal. Businesses have used up their stockpile and cash reserves they had in place for a no-deal Brexit during the pandemic, she said.

UK firms won't survive no-deal Brexit after virus, CBI boss warns
UK firms won't survive no-deal Brexit after virus, CBI boss warns. Picture: LBC/PA

"They are in no shape to cope with a no-deal Brexit," Dame Carolyn said, calling for a redoubling of effort to get a deal as early as possible in later summer or early autumn so "we can get on with the task of creating jobs."

Shelagh asked if businesspeople are so battered and bruised from coronavirus in every aspect of their life they are becoming apathetic to the post-Brexit state of the economy.

Dame Carolyn agreed: Brexit was high up on their agenda three or four months ago but they've not had a moment to think about it, so not only are there no preparations being put in place, but actually it's not even really been thought about.

"I do worry that people have in a sense forgotten about the tariffs we would face, the delays at borders and the challenges we would have if our goods are no longer being valid or legal in the European Union," she said.

"I'm afraid it is time for politicians to remember that and recognise how on its knees our economy is and I think they have a responsibility if I'm being really honest to find compromises and find a way through here."

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