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Johnson warned by business on ‘hugely damaging’ no-deal Brexit

More than 100 UK company chiefs, entrepreneurs and business groups have written to the prime minister warning that it would be “hugely damaging” to the economy if Britain leaves the EU without a deal at the end of this year.

The letter — written on the deadline by which the UK could have requested an extension to the transition period with the EU — says that a no-deal outcome would result “in more people out of work and lower living standards”. 

Businesses “simply do not have time or capacity to prepare for big changes in trading rules by the end of the year — especially given that we are already grappling with the upheaval caused by coronavirus”, it added.

Negotiators for the EU and UK are meeting in Brussels this week for the latest round of talks amid growing optimism that the two sides can agree their future relationship ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

Last week the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier signalled his team was willing to look for compromises on the vexed issue of level playing field rules for business, which aim to ensure close alignment between the sides’ state aid, environmental and employment regulations. 

The letter, signed by companies and entrepreneurs with significant EU trading experience, is one of the first cross-industry efforts since the onset of Covid-19 to exert pressure on UK government negotiators to strike a business-friendly EU trade deal.

Business groups have been reluctant to reopen disputes with the government over Brexit, having mended relationships that were strained by the EU referendum and backed recovery plans in the wake of Covid-19.

But businesses are now becoming concerned again over the lack of progress in EU trade talks, with just six months to go before the transition period ends without a deal. 

The letter has been signed by bosses and founders of companies such as Ebookers, Zoopla, Argus Media, New Covent Garden Soup, Graphene Composites and ICW. 

“This is not a call to reopen old divisions about remaining or leaving. The government must now deliver for us all, and on their promise to get a good deal, not a bad deal, and definitely not a no deal,” said Jürgen Maier, former chief executive of Siemens UK, who helped write the letter.

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