A leading business group has hit out at the “division and disorganisation” at the heart of Government, claiming firms are running out of patience with Brexit infighting.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said disagreements between ministers on Britain’s departure from the European Union was impacting on business confidence.
It comes as the Conservative party conference in Manchester continues to be dominated by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his latest Brexit intervention.
Philip Hammond will attempt to move the agenda on to the economy by announcing a cash boost for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative, but ahead of his speech the Chancellor faced questions about his Cabinet colleague.
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Mr Hammond, who had denied texting Mr Johnson on election night saying he would back him for the leadership, warned the Foreign Secretary he risks weakening Britain’s hand in the exit negotiations by consistently exposing Cabinet divisions.
Amid this backdrop, BCC director-general Adam Marshall has urged ministers to cut the upfront costs of doing business and improving skills and infrastructure rather than bickering amongst themselves.
“Business people across Britain are growing impatient with division and disorganisation at the heart of the party of government, and have made it very clear that they expect competence and coherence from ministers as we move into a critical period for the economy,” he said.
“Public disagreements between Cabinet ministers in recent weeks have only served to undermine business confidence, not just on Brexit negotiations, but also on the many issues where firms need to see clear action from government closer to home.”
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Mr Marshall also called on the Government to commit to a longer Brexit transition than currently planned.
The BCC wants an implementation period of “at least three years”, while the Government is proposing a transition of around two years.
Mr Johnson is on record as insisting the latter must be the absolute maximum.
Mr Marshall said: “On Brexit, businesses are clear that they want a comprehensive transition period, lasting at least three years, and pragmatic discussions on the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU firmed up by the end of 2017.
“They will judge the Government’s progress on Brexit by this yardstick – not by public speeches or pronouncements – and will take investment and hiring decisions accordingly.”