Business leaders are demanding a new direction for Brexit negotiations in reaction to the General Election. The Federation of Small Businesses has called for a delay in the start of talks due to the political fallout from a ‘hung’ parliament.
Aston Martin has warned that future investment could be at risk without clear indications for future EU relations. And other groups have insisted new ministers refocus their positions ahead of the start of official Brexit talks.
Few individual chief executives or companies have commented on the shock election result, with many privately waiting to see how a potential Conservative-DUP coalition is formed.
But the boss of luxury car maker Aston Martin, which has invested heavily in a new plant in Wales, spoke out.
Chief executive Andy Palmer said: “We cannot stress strongly enough the need for rapid and decisive policy direction.
“Clarity over our relationship with Europe must be established quickly together with the wider reassurance to our key trading partners that Britain remains a dynamic and thriving business environment.”
Lobbying groups representing small and large organisations across the country were quick to call for a renewed focus and more specifics on Brexit.
Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: “Businesses have shown in the last year that they are resilient to surprise results, but they have now been thrown into political limbo.
“Now is the time to move on from the rhetoric of the election campaign and focus on preparing for Brexit talks. The issues of access to EU markets and the need for skilled workers are still paramount.”
His views were echoed by the FSB, which went further in calling for a delay to negotiations.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “It is important to go into the Brexit talks from a position of strength, focused on getting the best deal possible for trade and access to workers and skills.
“We call for a delay to the scheduled start of negotiations rather than a rush to begin in 10 days’ time.
“The need for a transition period now becomes even stronger, providing the time to get Brexit right.”
‘Fast out of the blocks’
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “The Brexit negotiating strategy requires a careful rethink.
“Industry should be at the table, alongside whatever administration is formed, to help ensure we have the right negotiating position, which is something that’s been sadly lacking until now.”
Elsewhere, Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, and her counterpart at the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, both demanded clear objectives over Brexit.
Ms Fairbairn said: “With only 10 days before Brexit talks begin, the UK needs to be fast out of the blocks.
“Agreeing transition arrangements and guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights should be early priorities to get the talks off to a good start and show to the world that trade and people come first.”
Mr Marshall added: “No business would walk into a negotiation without clear objectives, an agreed starting position, and a strong negotiating team. It is hard to see how Brexit negotiations could begin without answers on these important questions.”
Official Brexit negotiations are due to start on 19 June in Brussels.