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Do businesses really back the current Brexit agreement?


When Theresa May left the CBI conference last week she would have been forgiven for believing that businesses were on her side when it came to the Brexit deal she’s brought back from Brussels.

Indeed, the CBI’s deputy director general, Josh Hardie, said in a statement that: “It appears that we’re on the cusp of a much-needed agreement. This shows that a deal can be done and businesses across the continent will be watching this weekend’s EU summit closely.”

But all may not have been as it appeared.

Internal emails from the CBI suggests that support for the deal from the organisation that positions itself as the ‘Voice of Business’ is far from unwavering, and certainly not that any deal and some semblance of a clear route forward is always the best option.

Indeed, the CBI’s head of EU negotiations inadvertently included ITV news in an internal email thread to colleagues which suggested as much whilst discussing a draft statement regarding post-Brexit partnerships.

In it, Nicole Sykes said: “no need to give credit to negotiators I think, because it’s not a good deal” and then received a reply from Christopher Grummet, head of news at the CBI, saying “Tweaked. Have left the credit in given we ‘want’ this to go through”.

Naturally, the CBI was not best pleased that such emails had reached the public. In a statement, it said that: “It’s absurd ITN has reproduced a private debate in the full knowledge that it is not the CBI’s position.

“Responding to significant announcements inevitably involves a step-by-step process, testing different viewpoints before arriving at a final, public statement.

“The CBI and our members have been clear. The deal’s not perfect, it involves compromise, hard work lies ahead but right now it is the best chance of protecting jobs and growth.”

So what do business really think about the deal that’s currently on the table? The one which Theresa May is spending her time marketing to the British people and politicians and one that the EU has strongly hinted it is unlikely to now deviate from.

The boss of Rolls-Royce was one of the first to praise the agreement and urged politicians to back the ‘practical’ agreement Theresa May had negotiated.

“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,” Mr East said.

BMW was on the same page as well with the car maker welcoming the deal, saying it was a ‘positive step in the right direction’ to avoid ‘the worst-case scenario which is what a no-deal Brexit would represent.’

Read more: Politicians should get behind ‘practical’ if not Rolls-Royce of Brexit deals

But whilst many firms within the manufacturing sector support the current proposals, others aren’t so keen.

Vocal Brexiteer and boss of Wetherspoon pub chain, Tim Martin, said on LBC radio this week that the UK would be better off with no deal at all.

He said that: “When the dust has settled and we can see what Theresa May’s deal is, we can see that no deal is much better than a deal.

“On day one, on the 29th March if we don’t sign up for a deal, we’re £39bn better off, which is £600 per person in the UK.

“Everyday that goes by if we don’t get out of the EU on 29th March we’ll continue to pay hidden tariffs on rice, oranges, wine, coffee, lots of things, every single day.”

A deal with no backing?

One of the main sticking points for which detractors of the current proposed deal are basing their arguments on is that the numbers in the House of Commons currently don’t add up for the Prime Minister and the deal may fail to pass parliament. Back to square one and, like with the majority of the Brexit journey, entering uncharted territory.

But that could change, especially in the eyes of education secretary Damian Hinds who defended the plan, in particular against an alternative of leaving the EU without a deal at all.

He said that “The deal that we have on the table is a strong deal. It is a good, balanced deal. As people reflect on what the alternatives are, I think people are going to come to see this is a very good deal for Britain.

“If we weren’t to pass this deal, I think it becomes rather unpredictable what happens next. There is a risk on the one hand beyond that of no Brexit at all – and there are people trying to thwart Brexit – and there is also a risk of no deal.

“Neither of those two things are attractive. This is why I believe this deal, which is a strong deal, will gain more and more traction.”

Read more: Brexit consultancy

What are your views on the deal? Will it help or hinder your business? Or are you simply pleased that there is a workable deal on the table and, should it receive a positive vote in parliament, the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit is starting to dim?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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