Firms will move jobs out of UK unless progress made at EU summit, CBI warns

CBI president Paul Drechsler

Jobs will be moved out of Britain unless Theresa May secures progress in Brexit negotiations at next week's summit of EU leaders, the CBI warns tonight.

The business lobbying group will say more than half (60%) of firms with Brexit contingency plans will activate them by Easter, meaning jobs leaving the UK unless the December 14-15 European Council summit green-lights trade and transition talks.

The prime minister is in a race against time to find a solution to a row over maintaining a soft Irish border that satisfies the EU, including Ireland, and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up her government.

Failure to do so would see the year passing with Brexit negotiations bogged down in their first phase, with no discussion or agreement on the transition period that businesses see as an "immediate" priority.

Tonight CBI president Paul Drechsler will say companies will move jobs or shift production if they have to and will begin making their "no turning back" decisions in the first quarter of 2018.

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In a speech to the City of London Corporation, he will say: "Today, Brexit uncertainty looms over almost every aspect of doing business in the UK. Every day, companies are having to plan for the worst while hoping for the best.

"They are making choices that will determine new jobs, new plants and new investments in the years ahead. Businesses will press snooze for as long as they can - but the alarm will go off.

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"No company wants to move jobs or shift production - but business will if it has to. No-one wants to leave their homes or jobs - but EU citizens will if they feel they are no longer wanted.

"And we know that financial services firms start making their 'no turning back' decisions in the first quarter of 2018. There's no time to waste. In the immediate term, business needs to know the details of any transition deal - Rome is burning on that issue.

"And we need progress at the EU council next week or 60% of firms with contingency plans will have put these into effect by Easter. That means jobs leaving the UK - in most cases irreversibly.

"These two things can be the dam that stems the flow of lost opportunities. We can then finally start talks on a deal that will start from 40 years of economic integration."

Mr Drechsler will attack "intolerable" Hard Brexiteers who are calling on Mrs May to walk away from talks with no deal.

He will say: "To those politicians suggesting we walk away from the negotiating table, I have a simple message: Careless talk will cost jobs. It's intolerable at a time when we all need to be working in the national interest. We can't walk away when the going gets tough.

"We can't enter into negotiations that affect the future of millions of people and then leave at the first sign of trouble.

"It would be an act of gross irresponsibility to walk away.

"To protect jobs, businesses and the prosperity of the country, we need to do what it takes to make progress and get on with the deal."

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