Quitting EU without trade deal 'opens Pandora's box'
Leaving the European Union without a deal on future trade arrangements would be "not only wrong but irresponsible", the head of the CBI has warned.
Paul Drechsler, the CBI president, said that if the UK was left to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules after Brexit, it would open a Pandora's Box of unforeseen consequences for the economy.
In a keynote speech at the City Lord Mayor's business and investment dinner at Mansion House, Mr Drechsler warned that British firms would face tariffs on 90% of their exports to the EU without an agreement, as well as a raft of new regulatory hurdles to negotiate.
While some businesses were already preparing for such a "worst case scenario", others were unable to do so because the costs were too high, the CBI president stressed.
With Theresa May on course to invoke Article 50, marking the start of the formal process of withdrawal from the EU by the end of the month, Mr Drechsler highlighted the deep unease among the business community over what happens next. "Right now, it feels like we're just reaching the top of the Article 50 roller coaster," he added.
"Any minute now, maybe next week, maybe the week after that, we'll suddenly drop into the twists and turns of negotiations."
Businesses on both sides of the Channel, he said, were concerned at the implications for future trade if the Government is unable to reach a deal with the remaining 27 member states.
"We should be under no illusions about what this would really mean," Mr Drechsler added.
"A 'no deal' scenario would open a Pandora's Box of economic consequences.
"Here in the UK and across the continent, firms are worried about this worst-case scenario.