Continued uncertainty over Brexit has pushed companies in the United Kingdom to the “point of no return” and forced many to trigger expensive contingency plans.
Five leading UK business groups chastised the country’s politicians on Wednesday, warning that the lack of progress on Brexit had harmed companies and hiked the risk of Britain crashing out of the European Union.
“Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward,” the groups said in a rare joint statement. The statement warned that many firms are “now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money.” It said that hundreds of thousands of other companies remain unprepared for a messy Brexit.
“This is not where we should be,” said the groups, which include the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses.
There are only 100 days to go before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May survived a confidence vote last week, but the divorce deal she negotiated with the European Union still faces long odds in parliament after more than a third of her party rebelled in the vote.
The government — and many businesses — have stepped up their preparations for a disorderly Brexit as a result. The business groups warned that crashing out of the European Union would mean “massive” new customs costs and tariffs, as well as disruptions at ports that would “destroy carefully built supply chains.”
Fears over ‘no deal’
Aerospace giant Airbus (EADSY) has said it could be forced to quit the country if there’s no deal on EU trading arrangements. Airplane engine maker Rolls-Royce (RYCEY) is stockpiling parts to help minimize the damage. Carmakers such as Nissan (NSANY), BMW (BMWYY) and Jaguar Land Rover are also heavily exposed.
The European Commission published its own contingency plans for a disorderly Brexit on Wednesday. It said it would seek to minimize damage to financial markets by allowing EU banks use derivatives clearinghouses in the United Kingdom for a year after Brexit. It will also allow some UK flights to access European airspace to safeguard “basic connectivity.” British citizens living in the bloc will continue to be considered legal residents.
Nowhere to hide
Crashing out without a deal would sink the UK economy into recession. But the UK government’s own analysis shows the economy will take a hit from any kind of Brexit. Big banks including Deutsche Bank (DB), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Citi (C) have already moved parts of their business out of the United Kingdom.
Panasonic (PCRFY) said in August that it would move its European headquarters to Amsterdam. Other firms have opened offices in the European Union to ensure they can continue to do business. German engineering group Schaeffler (SCFLF) said it was going to close two plants in the United Kingdom because of the uncertainty.