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UK business minister accused of 'dodging scrutiny' on Brexit preparedness

·2-min read
Britain's business secretary Alok Sharma. Photo: Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters
Britain's business secretary Alok Sharma. Photo: Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters

UK business secretary Alok Sharma has been accused of “dodging scrutiny” on business preparedness for Brexit, as he has refused to appear before a forthcoming business committee evidence hearing on 8 December.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee chair Labour MP Darren Jones wrote a letter to Sharma expressing “deep regret” at the move.

He said: “It is a very poor show when a secretary of state for business dodges Select Committee scrutiny on an issue as important as business preparedness for Brexit.

“It sends a dismal signal to British business that their secretary of state isn’t even willing to discuss what his department are doing to support businesses as they face unprecedented challenges in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and in preparing for the end of the transition period.”

He noted that it is “vital” everything possible is being done to support businesses ahead of the fast-approaching deadline, and that the committee had given Sharma “considerable flexibility.”

READ MORE: UK competition regulator says its 'ready for Brexit challenge'

Conflicting reports have emerged about the state of Brexit talks, as the deadline for the end of the transition period edges ever-closer. On Monday, a UK government minister suggested negotiations could be extended if a deal isn’t struck before the deadline.

But reports emerged later in the day that talks over the weekend had been “quite difficult” with “massive divergences” remaining between both camps.

Ireland’s prime minister Taoiseach Micheal Martin this morning said he was “hopeful” an agreement could be reached by the end of the week.

Only 30 days remain until the end of Britain’s transition period, with severe economic disruption if no deal is struck.

Although Britain officially left the EU in January 2020, the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

If no agreement is made, trade will default to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules — a move which would impact borders, spook financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond, particularly at a time when the world is grappling with COVID-19.

WATCH: What happens if no Brexit deal is struck?

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