More than 100 British businesses employing over 1 million people have called on both bickering sides of the Brexit divide to get serious.
In an open letter to David Davis, the UK’s lead negotiator, and his opposite number in Europe, Michel Barnier, the firms “urge both sides to be pragmatic and determined” to kick start the stalled talks.
They want to see “substantive progress”, adding: “Only this will give certainty on the rights of EU and UK citizens working abroad and enable discussion of transitional arrangements in October and trade, by the end of the year.”
Davis and Barnier have been stuck on several key areas, notably the divorce settlement – with the EU thought to be demanding in excess of £50bn – citizens’ rights, and the future of the border between Northern Ireland and the South.
The businesses, which include consulting giant AON, the Adnams brewery, BT, Centrica, Ford Motors, Gatwick Airport, Hallmark Cards, Harrods, Wessex Water, Zurich Insurance and countless others, are clearly concerned the seemingly increasingly intransigent stance on both sides is a real threat to future jobs.
They write: “We represent businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions of the UK with responsibility for over 500,000 UK and 600,000 EU jobs.
“We are committed to helping secure a successful new economic partnership between the UK and the EU, based on the principles of barrier-free trade.”
They go on: “Our businesses need to make decisions now about investment and employment that will affect economic growth and jobs in the future.
“Continuing uncertainty will adversely affect communities, employees, firms and our nations in the future.
“Businesses across the EU and UK are clear: being able to plan for a transition of up to 3 years that avoids a cliff edge is critical for our collective prosperity.”
The firms say that until transitional arrangements can be agreed and trade discussed, the risk of ‘no deal’ remains real and has to be planned for, “with inevitable consequences for jobs and growth on both sides”.
The letter, which was organised by the CBI, concludes: “Our shared interests vastly outweigh our differences, and we stand ready to help in any way we can to secure a successful outcome for the people and communities of the UK and the EU.” The full list of signatories can be seen here.
At the conclusion of the most recent talks in August, an exasperated Barnier said there had been “no decisive progress” on the key issues and criticised the UK for demanding the “impossible”.
For his part, Davis was more upbeat, saying there had been “some concrete progress”, but he acknowledged that “there remains some way to go”.
More talks are scheduled for October.