UK business leaders to call for indefinite delay in leaving single market

Business leaders have called on the UK to seek to stay inside the EU single market and a customs union 'until a final deal is in force'

The CBI proposed “a bridge” from March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU
The CBI proposed “a bridge” from March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU

Business leaders have demanded that ministers agree an indefinite delay in Britain’s departure from the European single market and customs union to give more time for talks on a long-term trade deal as Britian leaves the EU.

 “This is a time to be realistic,” the CBI director general said in a London School of Economics speech on Thursday outlining their demands. “Instead of a cliff edge, the UK needs a bridge to the new EU deal. Even with the greatest possible goodwill on both sides, it’s impossible to imagine the detail will be clear by the end of March 2019.”

The director-general said companies were changing plans and slowing investment because of the prospect of “serious disruption” if the UK crashed out of the EU without an exit deal.

Fairbairn said the business world was committed to making a success of Brexit but argued that staying in the single market during a “limited transition period” would pave the way to a better future by avoiding multiple problems with tariffs, red tape and regulation.

Fairbairn added that the CBI was, therefore, proposing “a bridge” from March 2019, when the UK is due to leave the EU, “to the new deal, maximising continuity for firms and avoiding a damaging cliff edge”.

“March 2019 is 20 months away. Time flies,” the chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned in a separate speech on Thursday in Brussels in which he claimed that Britain had yet to “face the facts” on Brexit.

“Whatever the outcome of these negotiations, the message I would like you to convey on the ground is this: the real transition period began on 29 March 2017, the day on which the UK presented its [article 50] notification letter.”

More in Europe

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition