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Just one in five businesses think Brexit will be achieved by March 2019
Richard Bell

Is slow progress in Brexit talks hurting businesses?

Brexit is happening. Many politicians have touted the possibility of a second referendum since last year’s vote, but the appetite among the electorate for yet another trip to the polls just isn’t there (even if remorse is supposedly setting in for some Leavers).

It’s accepted as a certainty now within the business community too, with fewer than one in 10 (around 8%) predicting that Britain’s departure from the European Union will fail to materialise.

That’s according to new research from Liverpool-based funding provider Bibby Financial Services, which also found that recent progress (or lack thereof) in the ongoing divorce talks has wounded our hopes for a quick, clean break from the trading bloc.

Just one-fifth of the businesses surveyed said they expect Brexit to be achieved by March 2019 – a deadline that Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking before the Commons earlier this month, said the Government will definitely achieve.

Bibby Financial Services’ UK chief exec, Edward Winterton, said of the findings: “Uncertainty isn’t good for business and Brexit is uncertainty in its most acute form.

“One thing the SME community is certain about is that we are leaving the EU. What is less clear is what Brexit will look like.”

Progress is what’s needed now, to dispel uncertainty. Many UK businesses are already feeling the negative effects of uncertainty in real terms.

Over a third have reported higher costs of foreign imports as the biggest impact on their business since the EU Referendum. A fifth pointed to declining domestic sales.

Last week, European Council President Donald Tusk said to the European Parliament: “If we fail it then the negotiations will end in our defeat”. Such rhetoric – making Britain’s imminent departure sound like a game to be won or lost, a challenge that will result in a clear winner and clearer loser – is unhelpful.

It’s important for leaders on both sides of the Channel to remain positive and realistic about the situation. Tribalism is pointless. Nobody is trying to get one up on anyone. What’s needed is a mutually beneficial arrangement. I can’t back the idea that one country’s gain has to come at the expense of another.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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