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Firms fear ‘destabilising’ departure of UK’s no-deal Brexit planning chief

A street sign of points at Parliament Street and Whitehall in Westminster London. Picture dated: Monday February 4, 2019
A street sign of points at Parliament Street and Whitehall in Westminster London. Picture dated: Monday February 4, 2019

Firms fear the departure of a top UK government official could ‘destabilise’ the government’s planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Tom Shinner, who acted as director of policy and delivery coordination at the department for exiting the EU (DExEU) , is said to have quit to join the private sector.

A spokeswoman for DExEU said: “Tom Shinner joined the department when it formed in July 2016 and since then has led the teams coordinating across Whitehall the government’s domestic policy and delivery preparations to leave the EU.

“He will hand over after three years in post, and later this year will leave the civil service to take on a new opportunity in the private sector.

“Careful succession planning has been put in place to ensure the department maintains its high standards of delivery.”

READ MORE: British firms stockpile £6.6bn of goods in run-up to Brexit

Shinner’s departure is seen by some as a sign of a lack of preparation for the 31 October no-deal cliff edge.

Concerns are rising over Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson pursuing no deal if selected by Conservative party members to be the next prime minister.

One source at a major UK manufacturers said: “If no deal had to be done, it needed to be pursued on 29 March [the first Article 50 deadline].

“Smaller businesses can’t afford to warehouse this time around, and due to the short time frame before Christmas and the position after the harvest, it would be even more catastrophic than a no-deal exit on March.”

Others within business share his concerns.

READ MORE: The major hole in Britain’s preparedness for no-deal Brexit

Craig Beaumont, external affairs director at the Federation for Small Business (FSB), told Yahoo Finance UK: “Losing corporate memory is always destabilising, but especially so when the odds of a no-deal are rising fast and the 31 October deadline is only 17 weeks away.

“Government must now inject fresh urgency its no-deal planning exercise, which will be much harder the second time around to engage people and indeed businesses.”

Shinner’s departure has also hardened some in their opposition to Brexit.

Nicola Horlick, Best for Britain supporter and CEO of Money&Co, told Yahoo Finance UK: "No deal planning is an unbelievably costly mess. The departure of the Brexit department's top civil servant all but confirms that.

“We cannot continue to throw money down the drain. Brexit must be stopped to keep the country moving forward."

READ MORE: Boris Johnson’s industrial strategy causes headache for business

The CBI declined to comment, however highlighted their open letter to Conservative leadership candidates where they stated “Firms large and small are clear that leaving the EU with a deal is the best way forward.

“Short-term disruption and long-term damage to British competitiveness will be severe if we leave without one. The vast majority of firms can never be prepared for no-deal, particularly our SME members who cannot afford complex and costly contingency plans.”

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