Retail bodies have hailed MPs’ decision to reject a no-deal Brexit as “an encouraging first step” – but urged Government to find a new solution “very quickly”.
The British Retail Consortium, the Food and Drink Federation and Retail NI have all welcomed last night’s vote in the Commons. MPs surprised the Government and voted by 312 to 308 to take a no-deal Brexit off the table.
The vote, however, is not binding, meaning the UK could still crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29.
Today, Parliament will vote on whether to ask the EU for permission to delay the date for Britain’s exit from the union.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “We welcome MPs’ commitment to taking no deal off the table; however, it remains the default option if nothing else can be agreed. Until a solution is found that can command the support of the House of Commons, it is impossible to guarantee that a disastrous no deal is avoided.
“Furthermore, businesses face mounting costs with every passing day as they try to mitigate the disruptive effects of leaving without a deal. A no-deal Brexit is bad for businesses, bad for consumers and bad for the country.
“If MPs wish the British public to avoid higher prices and less choice on the shelves, they must consider any option which secures a transition period after the withdrawal date.”
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright said the rejection of no-deal was “an encouraging first step”, but warned that no-deal “remains the default legal outcome”.
He said: “Food and drink manufacturers cannot stop planning for that outcome until the Withdrawal Act is amended and the EU has consented to a UK request for a delay. These steps must now happen very quickly.”
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Northern Ireland’s largest independent retail association, Retail NI, urged MPs to approve “a prolonged extension period” of at least four months, in order to “give retailers some breathing space” to plan for Brexit.
He added: “This announcement brings some degree of certainty, in one aspect at least by taking ‘no-deal’ off the table. The Commons must now also agree to seek an extension to the Brexit departure date.
“The UK Government’s proposals for a no-deal tariff regime made for frightening reading for retailers on both sides of the NI border.
“A no-deal exit would cause untold damage to cross-border shopping and to border town economies, and would doubtless lead to a considerable increase in illegal cross-border trade where an impractical ‘honour-based’ system of duties had been proposed by the UK.”