Minister claims businesses have their 'head in the sands' over Brexit impact

Minister Theodore Agnew

Minister Theodore Agnew - Credit: Parliament Live

A Tory minister has claimed that businesses have their "head in the sands" over the impact that Brexit will have on their companies.

Cabinet Office minister Lord Agnet said "it's their businesses at stake" if they fail to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

Agnew said that businesses had been slow to prepare due to the impact of the coronavirus and the "false alarms" beforehand about Brexit.

But he insisted government was not trying to shift the blame on to companies, explaining he wanted bosses to be "energetic" about the changes.

The Cabinet Office minister and Tory peer told the Commons Treasury committee: “There has been a head in the sand approach by traders which has been compounded by what I would call the quadruple whammy of two false alarms, so two extensions at the very last minute, then followed by Covid, and now followed by the recession.

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“The traders are not as ready as they should be.

“And if there’s one headline I hope that comes out of this appearance today it’s to send another shot over traders’ bows to warn them that it’s their businesses that are at stake from January 1 and they really must engage in a more energetic way.”

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But business leaders reacted with fury to the comments.

Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation, told the Independent: “I don’t think it’s accurate or helpful for ministers to assert that traders have not engaged in Brexit planning.

“If any traders have their head in the sand it’s because, after many frustrating months awaiting critical answers, they probably think it’s more likely they’ll find those answers in the sand than they will from the government.”

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