EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Progress in the Brexit negotiations is needed urgently, British and European business and union representatives said on Wednesday in a joint plea to London and Brussels ahead of this week’s European Union summit.
“We are calling on the UK government and the EU to inject pace and urgency in the negotiations, bringing about measurable progress, in particular a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland,” a statement from business leaders and unions on both sides of the English channel said.
They appealed to the EU and UK governments to “put jobs and prosperity before politics when seeking solutions that will matter for generations to come.”
With nine months to go before Britain leaves the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been unable to offer any clarity on how trade with the world’s biggest trading bloc will work after Brexit because she is still negotiating a deal.
But industry nervousness has intensified in recent days ahead of the EU summit, and corporations such as Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Airbus (AIR.PA) and BMW (BMWG.DE) have gone on record about their fears of what a haphazard Brexit may do to their economic interests. [nL8N1TS0WJ]
Wednesday’s statement was signed by the heads of BusinessEurope and the Confederation of British Industry and their counterparts at the European Trade Union Confederation and Britain’s Trades Union Congress. They together represent 45 million workers and 20 million employers.
“The UK government and the EU will need to agree on all aspects of regulatory alignment, which is of the utmost importance, without jeopardising the integrity of the single market,” the statement added.
On the British government side, infighting in May’s cabinet over Brexit has continued to tie her hands. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a pro-Brexit champion, was reported to have dismissed business fears using foul language when speaking to EU ambassadors, The Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday. A spokesman disputed that he had used bad language.
In the interests of both boardrooms and ordinary workers, the two sides’ actions must seek to preserve value chains and avoid non-tariff trade barriers, find solutions for barrier-free and frictionless trade in goods and services and a mechanism to agree a level playing field for workers’ rights, the statement said.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by James Dalgleish