Business figures call for vote on Brexit terms: Sunday Times

More than 70 business figures are calling for a public vote on the final terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, warning that the country faces “either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit”, the Sunday Times reported.
Firms are increasingly worried about the prospect of Britain leaving the world’s biggest trading bloc in March without an agreement, or that politicians will sign up to a deal that limits companies’ access to the continent’s markets.
A new group called “Business for a People’s Vote”, which includes Justin King, former boss of the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain, and John Neill, head of the car parts supplier Unipart, is to be launched as campaigners raise the pressure on politicians.
London and Brussels hope to conclude a deal this month, but in a letter, the business figures warn of potential negative consequences.
“We are now facing either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit. Both these options will further depress investment,” the Sunday Times quoted the letter as saying.
“They will be bad for business and bad for working people. Given that neither was on the ballot in 2016, we believe the ultimate choice should be handed back to the public with a People’s Vote.”
Britain’s Brexit ministry said it was confident of securing a deal that works for businesses and reiterated the government’s opposition to a second referendum.
“The people of the United Kingdom have already had their say in one of the biggest democratic exercises this country has ever seen and the prime minister has made it clear that there is not going to be a second referendum,” said a spokesman.
A report suggesting an all-UK customs deal will be written into the legally binding agreement governing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU to avoid the need for an Irish backstop is “speculation”, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said.
The Sunday Times said the plan would avoid the need to treat Northern Ireland differently, which has been the main stumbling bloc to securing an agreement on Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019.
Reuters reported on Friday that the EU has suggested that a backstop post-Brexit customs arrangement covering all of the UK could give mainland Britain some scope to set trade rules while keeping the province of Northern Ireland aligned with the EU.
May’s cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss her plan, and she hopes there would be enough progress by Friday for the EU to announce a special summit, The Sunday Times said.
Preparations for a final deal are “far more advanced than previously disclosed”, the report said, and will lead to a document of 50 pages or more being published.
Asked about the report, a spokesman at May’s office said:
“This is all speculation. The Prime Minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing.”
More than 70 business figures are calling for a public vote on the final terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union, warning that the country faces “either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit”, the newspaper reported.