Manufacturing sectors risks 'extinction' without EU customs deal, says CBI chief

CBI president Paul Drechsler Pic: Ken Mears

Parts of manufacturing industry face "extinction" unless Britain remains in a customs union with the EU, the president of the CBI has said.

Paul Drechsler, who is standing down from his role in the business organisation, said politicians were not focusing on the economics of Brexit.

He told the BBC: "If we do not have a customs union there are sectors of manufacturing society in the UK which risk becoming extinct.

"Be in no doubt, that is the reality.

"The debate that's going on across the country, in terms of politicians, it's not about economics, it's about politics."

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He added: "There's zero evidence that independent trade deals will provide any economic benefit to the UK that's material. It's a myth."

Mr Drechsler expressed concern that business resources are being diverted to prepare for a worst-case Brexit.

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"We already know tens of millions - in fact hundreds of millions - have been invested by UK pharmaceutical and finance companies to create continuity post a worst-case Brexit scenario. Tens of millions. What could we have done with that money?"

The CBI president said there has been little clarity from ministers on Brexit.

"We have a negotiation within the UK Government that's gone on for nearly three years.

"We still haven't got clarity about the future direction, about where we're heading, what will the future relationship with Europe be, at a level of detail that matters for investment."

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