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BRC: "businesses are exasperated" at lack of progress on Brexit as May loses vote again

Lauretta Roberts
12 March 2019

The second defeat of Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement just 17 days before the UK is supposed to be leaving the EU has left retailers "exasperated" at the lack of progress, the British Retail Consortium says.

In a statement released just after May's deal was roundly rejected by MPs for a second time by 391 votes to 242 this evening, BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said: "Even as the Brexit clock approaches midnight, MPs continue to squabble. Yet it is the public who will feel the impact of a no deal Brexit – tariffs, non-tariff barriers and currency depreciation will all push up costs and reduce the choice on the shelves we all currently enjoy.

"Businesses are exasperated over the lack of clarity over their future trading arrangements. Hundreds of ships are currently sailing towards Britain without a clear understanding of the tariffs, checks or documentation requirements they will face when they arrive. Politicians must swallow their pride and find an agreement that can command the support of the House."

Dickinson has been a vocal opponent of a no deal Brexit claiming it will hurt consumers the most. Her frustration at the prospect of the UK crashing out without a deal was shared today by British luxury industry body Walpole, whose CEO Helen Brocklebank urged the Government to rule out a potential no deal, saying £6.8bn of income was at risk if a no deal were to go ahead.

“British luxury businesses are committed to staying in Britain, but we are losing patience with the government taking us to the knife edge of no-deal. The sector is thriving, but the cost to the UK economy in lost exports from British luxury will be nearly £7bn and we believe that money should be used to strengthen the country not diminish it. We urge the government categorically to rule out No Deal exit," Brocklebank said.

The Prime Minister has said that MPs would be given the opportunity to debate tomorrow (Wednesday 13 March) whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, and that she would offer MPs a free vote on that decision. MPs will then be given the opportunity to delay Brexit, by requesting an extension to article 50, on Thursday.

Mrs May has said that she "struggled" with the idea of exiting the EU without a deal, despite early on in her tenure claiming that "no deal was better than a bad deal". This evening she said: “I am conscious also of my duties as prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the union that leaving without a deal could do.”

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