Leadsom compares planning for Brexit to preparing for 'bad weather'

PUBLISHED: 08:27 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:27 16 October 2019

Andrea Leadsom appears on Sky News to discuss Thomas Cook and the Jennifer Arcuri accusations about Boris Johnson. Photograph: Sky.

Andrea Leadsom appears on Sky News to discuss Thomas Cook and the Jennifer Arcuri accusations about Boris Johnson. Photograph: Sky.

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Andrea Leadsom has said businesses should assess the risks associated with leaving the European Union the same way they would a weather warning.

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The government has been on an advertising blitz in recent weeks informing businesses they may need to make changes to their operations to ensure they are sorted for Britain's exit from the European Union on October 31.

If there is a no-deal Brexit on Halloween, trading regulations could change overnight, with new permissions required for freight and additional paperwork on imports and exports needed.

Business secretary Leadsom told the business committee: "My advice to businesses has been to understand, each business for themselves, what they would need to do and by when at the latest they need to do it.

"In any business dealing with any circumstances, whether you're preparing for anticipated bad weather, a fiscal event that might change tax revenue, it is really incumbent on business to understand the sort of measures they may need to take."

Peter Kyle MP, a member of the committee, used the same analogy to criticise the lack of detail businesses were being given on how to prepare given the Prime Minister has yet to secure a Withdrawal Agreement.

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The Labour politician called the lack of foresight for the private sector "worrying" when the Brexit deadline is only 16 days away.

"When you have a weather forecast, you are probably going to get a longer-range forecast than you are going to get with any notice for this deal," said the backbencher.

"If a Met Office weather forecast is more reliable than government policy, then we really are in difficult times, aren't we?"

MLeadsom admitted that "not enough" businesses were properly prepared for Britain's divorce from Brussels but blamed the Benn act for hindering progress.

"Businesses are all aware of the work the government is doing to prepare for leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement but they are not taking action as a result of the Benn act," said the cabinet minister.

"There is quite a lot of evidence that the willingness of businesses to take action has reduced significantly - (that is) from surveys with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and others.

"Nevertheless, we continue to urge them at all the readiness forums, webinars and meetings we have to do just that."

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