‘Now is the time for historic political leadership’ Business groups issue plea for Brexit trade deal

Groups representing 190,000 businesses and seven million workers have made an urgent plea for a trade deal to be agreed before the UK leaves the EU.

Industry leaders in sectors including automotive, aviation, chemicals, creative industries, farming, food and pharmaceuticals said they were united in calling for a quick agreement for the sake of jobs and livelihoods.

The CBI and 71 separate trade associations and professional bodies said a deal would “turbo charge” business preparations for Brexit and increase confidence in the UK as a place to invest, as well as helping to ease implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

A joint statement says: “Now is the time for historic political leadership. With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through.

“The clarity that comes with an ambitious deal will have an instant impact on firms’ efforts to prepare.

“It will help investment by removing the threat of tariffs and quotas, and it will catalyse confidence through enhanced customs co-operation while making a precious data agreement possible, vital for services industries which make up 80% of the UK economy.

“Businesses are doing what they can to prepare for Brexit. But firms face a hat-trick of unprecedented challenges: rebuilding from the first wave of Covid-19, dealing with the second and uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.

“With each day that passes, business resilience is chipped away. A swift deal is the single most effective way to support recovery in communities across Europe.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The pandemic has caused immense damage to UK Automotive, costing thousands of jobs and soaking up precious resource.

“A second blow of tariffs, which would instantly raise prices and destroy competitiveness, would be devastating so we need a deal now – and not just any deal, one that is as free in reality as it is on paper.

“Only an ambitious deal that delivers for this critical sector will safeguard livelihoods and drive investment into the new skills, facilities and technologies so integral to delivering a zero carbon future for the UK.”

Dr Laura Cohen, chief executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said: “With 57% of members’ exports going to the EU, a deal is vital.

“Reaching a deal with the EU is imperative in order for the sector to be able to bounce back and continue tackling the challenges of decarbonising whilst staying internationally competitive.”

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “It is vital we secure a deal which enables the UK’s food and drink manufacturers to feed the nation and maintain UK food security.

“No deal would cause deep damage to the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and put at risk the choice, quality and affordability of food and drink available to UK shoppers and consumers.”