Business warnings on Brexit ‘inappropriate’, says Jeremy Hunt

UK health secretary claims negativity of industry players undermining PM in talks

Thousands of people joined a march against Britain's parliament, on the second anniversary of the UK voting to leave the European Union.


One of Theresa May’s most senior ministers has condemned as “completely inappropriate” warnings from businesses about potential job losses as a result of the government’s Brexit strategy. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said companies like Airbus and BMW, which said last week they would have to move production out of Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, were undermining the prime minister in negotiations with the EU.

“It was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats for one very simple reason. We are in an absolutely critical moment in the Brexit discussions and what that means is that we need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit, a clean Brexit,” he told the BBC.

“The more that we undermine Theresa May the more likely we are to end up with a fudge which will be an absolute disaster for everyone.”

Airbus and BMW

Airbus, which produces wings for its aircraft in Britain, said last week that it would have to relocate if Britain left the EU without a transition arrangement and BMW warned that it could move production out of the country if there was no clarity about future customs arrangements by the end of the summer. On Sunday, the heads of Britain’s five biggest business lobby groups wrote to Ms May and European Council president Donald Tusk, warning that the slow pace of the negotiations was undermining business confidence. The heads of the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and the EEF, which represents manufacturers, said negotiators on both sides appeared to be returning to first principles rather than reaching agreement on key issues.

‘In the dark’

“For businesses, this means a deal looks further off and the original benefits of transition are being wasted as time ticks down. Every day, larger companies are not only contingency planning, but spending many millions on implementing these plans – without even knowing what to prepare for. Medium-sized businesses who are watching and waiting need clarity to plan before they make the necessary changes to their business models. Small businesses with even less scope to prepare, still remain in the dark about the economic environment we are going to be operating in,” they said.

An estimated 100,000 people marched in London on Saturday, two years after the EU referendum, to call for a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Politicians from across the political spectrum addressed the rally and Gina Miller, who took a legal action to ensure that parliament had to approve the triggering of Article 50, which started the withdrawal process, urged the demonstrators to step up pressure for another referendum.

“Together we must stand up, demand our voices are heard, demand a people’s vote so that future generations can hear us say we did our bit we stood up and shouted for a country that’s together, kinder, tolerant. This is not a time to be silent,” she said.