The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) president Paul Drechsler warned that 60% of companies with a plan could put it into effect by Easter, meaning jobs would “irreversibly” leave the UK.
The warning follows delays to reach an initial Brexit deal between the UK government and the EU.
Drechsler said that uncertainty concerning Brexit was looming over almost every aspect of doing business in the UK and companies had to “plan for [the] worst while hoping for the best”.
He added that companies were making choices that would determine the establishment of new jobs, new plants and new investments in the years ahead.
“Businesses will press snooze for as long as they can – but the alarm will go off.
“No company wants to move jobs or shift production – but business will if it has to. […] EU citizens will if they feel they are no longer wanted.”
As a result, the CBI warned that financial services firms would start making “no turning back” decisions in the first quarter of the new year. It also advised that not making a deal would be an act of “gross irresponsibility”.
Drechsler explained, “Careless talk will cost jobs. It’s intolerable at a time when we all need to be working in the national interest.
“We can’t enter into negotiations that affect the future of millions of people and then leave at the first sign of trouble.”
Meanwhile, the CBI, together with the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the manufacturers’ organisation EEF and the Trade Union Congress made a joint statement warning that 4 million EU and UK citizens would face a second Christmas in uncertainty about their right to remain in the countries they currently leave.
The business groups criticised the government’s treatment of EU nationals living in the UK and UK citizens living abroad as “bargaining chips”, saying people were being left unsure of their position, especially if no deal is made.
They called for a unilateral guarantee of their status and future rights before Christmas.
“If many who go home for holidays simply do not come back, this would have a damaging impact on critical public services and growth.”
According to a new survey by NatCen, 60% of people believe Brexit negotiations are going badly, compared to 41% back in February.
Moreover, only 19% of voters think the UK will get a ‘good deal’ out of the negotiations, compared to one in three 10 months earlier.