Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UK firms appeal for Brexit deal as PM warns of likely failure

UK firms appeal for Brexit deal as PM warns of likely failure

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The UK will leave the EU’s single market on December 31. AFP

UK firms appeal for Brexit deal as PM warns of likely failure

UK businesses clamoured for compromise on December 13 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said failure remains the “most likely” outcome to marathon post-Brexit trade talks with the EU.

“I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things, but where there’s life there’s hope,” Johnson told reporters, after agreeing with EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to push on with negotiations.

The pair had said they would decide whether or not a deal was possible by the end of the weekend, but agreed in a phone call to “go the extra mile” before the UK leaves the EU’s single market on December 31.

“The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks. I still think there’s a deal to be done if our partners want to do it,” Johnson said at 10 Downing Street after briefing his cabinet about the call.

But Britain could not compromise on the “fundamental nature” of Brexit, controlling UK laws and fisheries, he said.

“The most likely thing now is of course we have to get ready for WTO terms,” Johnson added, referring to tariffs and quotas on the basic rules of trade set by the World Trade Organisation.

He said: “There is a clarity and a simplicity in that approach that has its own advantages. It’s not where we wanted to get to . . . but the UK is prepared.

“Either way, whatever happens, the UK will do very, very well.”

UK businesses welcomed the agreement to keep talking, but disagreed strongly with Johnson’s cheerful forecasts for Britain’s future if it severs all ties with its biggest overall trading partner from the New Year.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders CEO Mike Hawes tweeted: “We now need negotiators to finish the job and agree the deal we all so desperately need.

“’No deal’ would be nothing less than catastrophic for the automotive sector, its workers and their families, and represent a stunning failure of statecraft. Quite simply, it has to be ruled out.”

Nissan has warned that a no-deal Brexit would make its Sunderland car factory in northeast England, which employs more than 6,000 workers, unviable due to the restoration of tariffs on cross-Channel trade.

Last week, Japanese automaker Honda suspended production at its British plant for a day after suffering a shortfall in parts, owing to blockages at ports caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit stockpiling.

Even with a trade deal, Britain will still be out of the EU’s common market and businesses will face new customs regulations and paperwork.

They warn the government has failed to get vital information technology (IT) systems ready in time, leading to fears of transport gridlock on roads and at ports.

Confederation of British Industry director-general Tony Danker said the news of talks continuing “gives hope”, but demanded the government fix the IT rollout and offer more support to businesses.

He said in a statement: “A deal is both essential and possible. It is the only way to build upon the extensive support for the economy given by all governments during the pandemic. Without it, that progress is undermined.”

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) appealed to London and Brussels not to give up.

BCC director-general Adam Marshall tweeted: “Even at this unbelievably late hour, the message from business to UK and EU leaders is still the same. Keep going. Get a deal done.”

But Johnson is under pressure from pro-Brexit hardliners in his Conservative party not to back down.

Tory member of Parliament John Redwood said: “A long complex legal agreement that locks the UK back into many features of the EU that hinder us is not the Christmas present the UK needs.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants