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BORIS JOHNSON’S CAREER AMBITIONS COULD SIGNIFICANTLY DAMAGE UK BUSINESSES

Ian Baxter is chairman and founder of Baxter Freight, a UK logistics provider which employs almost 60 staff and offers daily services covering all the main commercial centres in continental Europe. Ian has spoken out about Brexit on numerous occasions and has become a leading figure for SMEs. Here, Ian offers his views on the clear Cabinet split around the Brexit transition, which has recently come to light

 

 

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson, has recently challenged Prime Minister Theresa May on her planned Brexit transition phase. In doing so, Mr. Johnson has made it clear that his personal career ambitions are at the top of his agenda, and that the interests of British businesses are most certainly not.

The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) has today (2 October 2017) warned that public disagreements between cabinet ministers around the Brexit process, are undermining business confidence, and this is absolutely correct. I and many other UK business owners want to see a sensible, calm negotiation and transition in which the government has the interests of our businesses as its top priority. There is no doubt in my mind that a forced Brexit transition will significantly harm UK businesses.

The government is currently proposing a transition period of around two years, with Mr. Johnson putting pressure on Theresa May that this should be the absolute maximum length of time. However, pressurising the government on the pace of its negotiations and transition is most unwelcome. Arguing for a hard Brexit and reducing the transition period to two years, as opposed to the three originally cited, could be extremely damaging to UK businesses and particularly harmful to British SMEs. 

As we’re all aware, the UK government is currently negotiating one of the most important deals in our history, regarding Britain’s departure from the European Union and the new relationship that will be formed. In an ideal world, the deal needs to be concluded within the next 12 months to provide British businesses and our economy with greater stability.  

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, we would all acknowledge that the Brexit vote was extremely divisive – demonstrated by the 52/48 vote split. It’s also understandable that such divisions exist in both of the main parties as well.

I can acknowledge and fully appreciate that in cabinet there will be different views on how to move forward and at times, these differences will lead to some internal conflict. However, now is certainly not the time for political maneuvering nor is it the time to undermine the Prime Minister in an attempt to advance one’s own career. In order to get the best deal for British businesses and the public alike, we need members of the Cabinet to be in support of Theresa May, not in opposition. Whilst it is perfectly legitimate for Boris Johnson to put forward his arguments within Government, it’s extremely unhelpful and damaging for him to publicly challenge the Prime Minister’s approach in the national media.

Businesses need a flexible and pragmatic approach to Brexit implemented over a period of time long enough to allow them to adjust to change. If we push for the ‘hard and fast’ Brexit that Mr. Johnson is advocating, businesses, and SMEs in particular simply will not cope with leaving the single market and customs union which currently represents nearly half (44%) of all British exports.      

As an intelligent man I am sure Mr. Johnson understands that. In the national interest, he needs to shelve his personal ambitions for now and prioritising the interests of the 3 million people whose livelihoods depend on our exports to the European Union.

 


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