Businesses warn they still do not have enough Brexit certainty

Prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid and home secretary Priti Patel

Prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid and home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph: House of Commons/PA. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A majority of British business believes that the government is still not providing enough detail on the UK's relationship with the EU, a new survey has found.

The Institute of Directors (IoD), which conducted the research, also found that directors are three times more likely to view negotiations with the EU as a priority, versus signing up to new trade deals in other parts of the world.

Details emerged as chancellor Sajid Javid laid out his vision for the UK's trading relationship with the EU in an interview for the Financial Times.

It included the warning that there will not be future alignment with EU rules, which one industry described as the "death knell" for frictionless trade, although which sectors are expected to diverge has not been disclosed.

Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the IoD, said: "To give businesses any chance of being ready for the new relationship by the end of 2020, the government needs to be as clear as possible about what its intended destination is.

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"With directors clear that negotiations with the EU are the priority right now, clarity is crucial for so many companies.

"Just calling it a free trade agreement gives no indication of the balance between alignment and divergence, which is essential for firms to do any kind of advance planning. Directors need to know what the Government's priorities for market access are for the EU."

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She added that just 35% of businesses believe the withdrawal agreement gives their organisation the "certainty needed to make planning and investment decisions", compared with 55% who agreed they "will only be able to make planning and investment decisions with certainty when we understand our future relationship with the EU".

There has been talk of "certainty" following the re-election of Boris Johnson in December, but the survey suggests the government is not providing all of the answers businesses need.

The chancellor said in his interview that he had little sympathy for companies who are unprepared for Brexit. He said: "We're also talking about companies that have known since 2016 that we are leaving the EU.

"Admittedly, they didn't know the exact terms."

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