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Brexit uncertainty means damage today, weakness tomorrow: CBI

Rain Newton-Smith

Brexit has already harmed the UK economy — and some of that damage may be long term.

So says new data from The Confederation of British Industry and its members.

UK businesses are warning that recent Brexit uncertainty has significantly affected their sales and investment plans over the last few months, a new CBI survey says.

273 firms across the services, manufacturing, and distribution sectors were polled in February to assess how ongoing Brexit uncertainty has affected various aspects of their business and what concerns them about a potential no deal Brexit.

Less than one month before the UK is set to leave the European Union, firms believe:

  • That the recent uncertainty around Brexit has negatively affected sales (weighted balance of -58%) and UK investment (-43%)
  • That costs have increased significantly (+59%) as a result of Brexit uncertainty, and that stockpiling of goods is an everyday business reality (+43%) with 'no deal' still on the table
  • Nearly 9 in 10 firms are concerned about potential delays at borders arising from a 'no deal' scenario.
  • Tariff changes also featured strongly among firms' fears under a 'no deal' scenario, with 57% of respondents saying they were 'extremely' concerned and 19% 'moderately' concerned.
  • Nearly half (47%) of respondents reported 'extreme' concerns about uncertainty on EU citizens' status, with 27% moderately concerned.

Commenting on the findings, Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said: "With Brexit stuck in stalemate, this only means growing damage today and a weaker economy tomorrow. Growth is at a near standstill and investment is evaporating; the economy is undoubtedly slowing down.

"Businesses are getting on with the day job and continue to show genuine resilience in the face of recent uncertainty.

"But the spectre of no deal is holding them back from investing in new factories, new overseas markets and new jobs.

"No deal would unleash a minefield of consequences that cannot be circumvented by mini-deals and last-minute horse-trading. Holding out for unicorns will guarantee no deal. Only backing a deal will take business uncertainty off boiling point.

"MPs must put jobs and the UK's economic wellbeing before dogma and finally agree a way forward. Get behind the Prime Minister's deal, but if you can't, then get behind something else fast, to protect communities and living standards."

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