Businesses expecting a plethora of free trade deals and a vast reduction in red tape will instead become scapegoats when the Brexit transition ends as the Government urges them to prepare for an outcome that is worlds apart from what was advertised in 2016.
Boris Johnson will today urge corporate leaders to step up their preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period, amid concerns that he will fail to negotiate a trade deal with the EU.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the door was “ajar” for talks to continue with the UK is calling for a fundamental change of direction from the bloc for negotiations to resume.
But with just weeks left until the deadline the likelihood of a deal being struck is becoming increasingly slim.
British businesses are growing concerned a trade deal will not be in place when the transition period ends on December 31, meaning they will be hammered by high tariffs.
The Prime Minister and Mr Gove will call firms with large supply chains and representative organisations on Tuesday, as the Government launches an advertising drive to warn “time is running out”.
Regardless of whether there is a deal or not, firms will no longer be operating within the single market and will need to change they way they operate.
Mr Gove said: “Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act.”
HMRC will also write to 200,000 firms who trade with the EU to set out new customs and tax rules.
The move echoes the response to the coronavirus crisis, when subtle slogans and clever ad campaigns shifted the blame away from the government to the people.
As LBC presenter James O’Brien said at the time, “the only way the government get away with this is by making it our fault”.
Polling by JL Partners for ITV’s Peston found that of those who expected a second lockdown in 2020, 59 per cent would blame it on the public while just 33 per cent would blame the government.
It came after the government changed its slogan from ‘Stay Home’ to ‘Stay Alert’ and ‘Control the Virus’.
“Hold up your end of the bargain”
Today, shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves called for the Government to deliver the deal it promised during the general election, condemning yet more blame-shifting on their part.
“It’s all well and good asking businesses to prepare, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain and actually explain what’s going on,” she said.
“Businesses and workers have been pleading with the Government for months to get the information they need to prepare for the end of the transition period but have been too often left in the dark.”
CBI deputy director general Josh Hardie agreed, saying: “Businesses are doing all they can to prepare for Brexit.
“But firms face a hat-trick of unprecedented challenges: rebuilding from the first wave of Covid-19, dealing with the resurgence of the virus and uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.
“With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done. Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route through.”