Time running out for Brexit deal, warns IoD director
The Northern Ireland-born chief of the Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned that the Government has only a "small window of opportunity" to secure agreement on a Brexit transition period before companies activate plans to move abroad.
Half of businesses are drawing up contingency plans for Brexit - some including relocation elsewhere in the EU - and one in 10 has begun to implement them, Stephen Martin warned.
He also claimed the number taking action would "snowball" unless a firm deal was struck within the next four-and-a-half months to guarantee a transition period after the official Brexit date in March 2019, during which existing EU regulations will remain unchanged.
In a speech to business leaders at the annual IoD dinner in London last night, Mr Martin said many companies were concerned over what would happen if Theresa May failed to achieve a breakthrough at next month's Brussels summit, allowing the UK to move on to negotiations on trade and transition.
"Moving on to phase two of the talks is crucial for all sides to avoid a chaotic Brexit, so we urge the Government - and indeed the EU - to pull out all of the stops to break the impasse in December," Mr Martin said.
"The message from business is that all we want for Christmas is progress on Brexit."
IoD director-general Mr Martin said that crucial investment decisions were "facing a chill" as a result of uncertainty about the outcome of Brexit.
Business backs the Government's plan for a two-year "implementation period" to provide time to adjust to new arrangements but cannot wait long for it to be agreed, he added.
Mr Martin, from Belfast, is a graduate of Ulster University.