Brexit: Impossible to prepare for ‘significant disruption’ of no deal, Gove told after claiming businesses are ready to leave

‘There are limits to what can be done,’ industry tells former environment minister 

Jon Sharman
Thursday 26 September 2019 12:12 BST
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, came under fire from industry figures
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, came under fire from industry figures (PA)

Michael Gove’s claim that the automotive and retail sectors were “ready” for a no-deal Brexit has been slapped down by industry groups.

As MPs returned to parliament after the Supreme Court ruled that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was tasked with updating them on what the government has done to steel the country for leaving the European Union (EU).

He claimed that many businesses were already well prepared for no deal.

But Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said he wanted to challenge this suggestion as he had met “with the leaders of pretty much all the business sectors and the one message they wanted to get across to me was how concerned they were that businesses were not prepared for a no-deal Brexit”.

Mr Gove replied: “It is the case that the automotive sector, whom I met earlier this week, confirmed that they were ready. The retail sector confirmed that they are ready. Ninety per cent of the companies measured by value that trade with the EU also trade with companies outside the EU, they are in a position to be ready.”

The reaction from industry leaders was swift.

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, tweeted that the automotive sector had been “consistent & clear” that despite spending more than £500m on no-deal preparations, it “can’t fully mitigate serious risks”.

He added: “Need deal & free & frictionless trade.”

A spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium also appeared to contradict Mr Gove.

“We have been crystal clear that while retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, there are limits to what can be done,” he said in a statement.

“It is impossible to completely mitigate the significant disruption which could be caused.”

The pushback from industry leaders came on the first day of parliamentary business since Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was ruled unlawful.

Later in the day the prime minister endured a bruising, hours-long grilling from furious MPs but reiterated his commitment to leaving the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal.

“We will not be extending” Article 50 he told the Commons.

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