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CBI's Carolyn Fairbairn calls for Brexit deal in letter to south east MPs

The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has written to every Kent MP urging them to avoid a 'no deal' Brexit for fears it will hit the south east harder than elsewhere.

The CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn has penned a letter to all south east MPs urging them to "find a Brexit deal that works for the south east".

All MPs in the south east have been sent a letter by the CBI chief
All MPs in the south east have been sent a letter by the CBI chief

It comes as MPs return to what is likely to be a day of drama at the House of Commons.

A spokesman for the CBI explained: "British firms are full of ideas for lifting investment and providing the foundations for a growing and fair economy.

"Securing a good deal with the EU is a vital starting point for this ambitious agenda. However, the risk of no deal has increased in recent weeks and the CBI has ramped up efforts to prepare members for this outcome.

"The CBI believes the message from the south east is clear; preparing for a no deal is sensible, but it is vital that politicians dedicate as much effort to striking a deal as preparing for failure. There is no such thing as a 'no deal' outcome without negative consequences for jobs and growth.

"The CBI has also raised the alarm for small business, saying that while big businesses have spent millions preparing many smaller firms do not have the spare cash to try and mitigate the effects with so much Brexit uncertainty."

Time is ticking to the latest Brexit date of October 31
Time is ticking to the latest Brexit date of October 31

In the CBI’s assessment of the state of 'no deal' preparations by the UK, the EU and businesses in 27 key areas of the economy, it concludes – despite existing mitigating actions – disruption is likely in 24 of these areas immediately following a 'no deal' outcome.

In all 27 areas, it says, negative impact is anticipated in either the short or long term.

In the letter to MPs Dame Carolyn says: "Relative to the rest of the UK, the south east would fare worse in a 'no deal' scenario.

"Real GVA in the south east – a measure of the value of goods and services produced in the region - could be £28 billion lower by 2034, compared to if the EU-UK relationship remained the same. This is equivalent to one-and-a-half times the annual value of public spending on doctors, hospitals and other health services in the region."

She also references the recent Brexit round tables recently held all over the UK by the CBI.

She added: "Businesses across the UK have spent billions of pounds getting ready and continue to do everything they can to prepare for a 'no deal'.

Malcolm Hyde, regional director, CBI South East supports the letter sent by the director-general of the organisation
Malcolm Hyde, regional director, CBI South East supports the letter sent by the director-general of the organisation

"Firms across the south east have built new warehouses, stockpiled goods, hedged against currency fluctuation, trained staff in new customs procedures, and some have planned factory shutdowns at great expense.

"But some practicalities cannot be avoided, and prepared is not the same as protected.

"Tariffs and additional customs costs, as well as rising import costs caused by currency depreciation, will hit British competitiveness in the long term. And in the short term, perishables and medicines cannot withstand extended unplanned delays at borders. Smaller firms do not have the resources to evaluate what a no deal will mean for their business, and the majority have taken no action to mitigate the consequences."

CBI regional director for the south east, Malcolm Hyde said: “We are urging MPs in the south east to back a Brexit deal that is good for our region.

“Large businesses have done, and are doing, everything they can to prepare for no deal. They have spent billions of pounds on getting ready. But the simple fact is that small businesses do not have the resource to understand what no deal means, let alone mitigate the consequences.

“Businesses have noticed and welcome the significant step change in government investment and energy. The CBI is supporting them in those endeavours.

SMEs do not have the financial resources to prepare for Brexit, the CBI says
SMEs do not have the financial resources to prepare for Brexit, the CBI says

“Some practicalities cannot be avoided. Warehouses are full at Christmas time, the only preparation many services firms can do is to move jobs to the EU, and that trade relies as much on EU mitigations as UK ones.”

Read more: For the latest news and views on Brexit

Read more: For the latest business news for Kent

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