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Boris Johnson's Brexit plan could 'gamble away' the UK's reputation for business

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
The FSB warns the next PM must not 'gamble away' Britain's reputation for business. Photo: PA

Britain risks “gambling away” its reputation for business if the next prime minister takes the UK out of the EU without a deal, a leading business chief has warned.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) is urging Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt to work across party lines to secure a “pro-business Brexit,” as fears continue to grow of a catastrophic no-deal divorce.

The warning comes as the pound hit 27-month lows on Tuesday, with markets spooked by both Tory leadership candidates’ increasingly hardline Brexit stances and fast-receding hopes of any agreement being reached with Brussels.

A debate on Monday night saw the two rivals both rule out one possible compromise solution on the Northern Irish border, which has derailed the UK government’s efforts to secure a Brexit deal so far.

READ MORE: Pound hits 27-month low as chances grow of a no-deal Brexit

It also comes after outgoing prime minister Theresa May urged her top ministers to keep engaging with businesses on Tuesday, in a thinly veiled signal to her potential successors.

Mike Cherry, chair of the FSB will tell MPs at the trade body’s annual reception in Westminster tonight that they must work together after a “litany of failures.”

A pre-released version of his speech reads: “Resigning ourselves to a chaotic no-deal Brexit in a little over three months’ time is not helpful. Doing so risks real harm to smaller businesses, which are the least likely to be in a position to respond to economic shocks.

“The UK risks gambling away its reputation as a secure place to invest, and small businesses, many of which do not have the luxury of moving operations to other countries, will suffer as a result.”

READ MORE: Employment rate falls as Brexit takes its toll on the UK economy

He said the solution to the political deadlock that brought down Theresa May “cannot lie with one party alone, or even one faction of one party.”

Cherry will also highlight key business priorities being overlooked as Brexit dominates the agenda, including tackling late payment of suppliers, investing in better internet and reforming the government’s apprenticeship levy.