Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to sell her Brexit agreement have been boosted by a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) statement declaring that no deal is “not an acceptable option” and “we must not go backwards”.
The statement was agreed unanimously at a special meeting of the CBI’s senior policy-making committee.
A leaked memo earlier this month named the CBI as one of the organisations the government must aim to get on side to win public support for a deal, though Downing Street distanced itself from the document.
The statement said Mrs May’s deal – approved by Cabinet on Wednesday, but subjected to furious criticism in the House of Commons the following day – offered two “essential economic benefits which must be achieved”.
They were avoiding a no-deal cliff edge by delivering a transition period following the official date of Brexit on 29 March, 2019 and opening a route to a good long-term trade deal with the remaining EU.
“We are united in the view that the government’s proposed deal represents hard-won progress,” the statement said. “It requires all sides, including business, to compromise, but compromising is essential to avoid a damaging no deal and move on to the future. For the sake of the prosperity of our country, we must not go backwards.”
The CBI added: “No deal is not an acceptable option. Firms are clear that no deal would badly damage our economy by disrupting supply chains, causing shortages and preventing vital services reaching people.
“No deal could lead to GDP being over 2 per cent lower by 2020 and up to 5 to 8 per cent lower in the long term, with severe consequences for jobs and living standards.
“The risk of no deal is already causing harm as companies of all sizes action contingency plans … four in five firms have already cut or postponed investment because of no-deal risks.”