The boss of Rolls-Royce has urged politicians to back Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement with time running out to agree any alternative.
Joined by many other business leaders who came out publicly to back May’s Brexit plan, Mr East mirrored the sentiment of thousands of company leaders up and down the country in calling for a practical approach to ensure a no-deal scenario is avoided.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr East said of this week’s events that: “The time since the referendum seems to have gone remarkably quickly and we’re essentially [still] having a discussion we could have had the morning after the referendum.
“We are slightly running out of time and I would, as a business leader, like to see politicians on both sides of the fence get on and negotiate a practical deal that works for business.”
Rolls-Royce, who employ over 22,000 people in the UK across aerospace, submarine and marine sectors alone, is just one of thousands of manufacturing firms concerned that just-in-time supply chains may break under a hard exit from the European Union, calling for ‘as little change as possible’ from the current close export and trade ties with the block.
Elsewhere, BMW welcomed the draft exit agreement brought back from Brussels, stating it was a ‘positive step in the right direction’ to avoid ‘the worst-case scenario, which is what a no-deal Brexit would represent’.
May out to sell her deal
It’s been a busy week for the Prime Minister with a five-hour Cabinet meeting and three-hour session in the Commons followed by a raft of ministerial resignations, a further statement outside Number 10 and even a birthday bash for Prince Charles.
Since Wednesday, May has been in campaign mode to drum up public support and understanding for the deal she’s managed to agree, whilst also thwarting questions about votes of no confidence and leadership contests.
Indeed, political support whilst invisible during the hours immediately following the announcement of the agreement has started to emerge, including MP Therese Coffey stating that May’s draft agreement is ‘what businesses are looking for’ and is ‘confident that when people get into the full detail and what that actually means, many more will endorse it’.
But the main sticking point for Brexiteers and the public right now is the customs arrangement as part of the Northern Ireland backstop for which there’s a seeming lack of clarity on how, if triggered, this can be exited in the years ahead.
A full Brexit agreement could be close, but it could equally be an impossible goal should political motions within the Conservative Party itself look to oust the PM with the view to negotiating the deal, something which the EU has said it’s not at this stage inclined to do.
And Bruno Le Maire, France’s economy minister, had little sympathy for the UK’s position, stating: “The British politicians, who have argued for Brexit, now have a choice between reneging on their absurd political promise or an economic disaster of which the British people will be the first victim.”
Until next week…