Let's persuade business to back the People's Vote
London4Europe Committee Member and former HM Treasury senior civil servant Michael Romberg considers how to persuade business to reject the deal. A previous article on this theme was Mind your own business.
Disappointingly a number of business groups and leaders have backed the Government's Brexit deal in spite of the obvious harm that Brexit - any Brexit - would do to business.
I would encourage you to deploy the counter-arguments in any context where you can influence business positions whether with your employer or a trade association at work or in your campaigning with local businesses. It is also worth contacting a group called Business for a People’s Vote which is gaining support (further limited contact information here and here).
The action we want businesses to take is to contact their trade association and their MP and come out for rejection of the deal and a call for a referendum on the terms with the option to Remain (People's Vote).
No-deal is anyway off the agenda
The first driver of business support for the deal is the fear of no-deal. No-deal of course would be terrible. It would be the default if the deal is voted down (and might yet happen by accident).
But no-deal was only ever an even half-way credible option when it was supported by the Government. Now Theresa May supports the deal, as does a majority of her party.
Backing for no-deal comes from the ERG, and a few Lexiters beyond the far-left.
Jeremy Corbyn opposes it. So, we can assume that MPs will not allow it to happen. Keir Starmer is working cross-party to obtain a resolution that would formally prevent no-deal.
Note that if Parliament rejects the deal it can always accept it later (although I hope of course that Parliament will go for a People's Vote instead or as well).
The Transition Period brings uncertainty
The second driver of business support comes from the desire for certainty. But the deal provides certainty only in comparison with no-deal and only for the current business arrangements during the transition period.
That two to four year period will be consumed in negotiations on the framework of future relations, will generate the same sort of uncertainty for businesses that they have disliked for the past two years.
Moreover, there is no suggestion of a transition period at the end of the transition period. So we would face a cliff-edge at the end of transition as we move overnight to the new relationship with the EU.
A referendum brings certainty
By contrast, a decision to have a referendum on the deal with the option to Remain means a 22 week period from the introduction of legislation to referendum day when there is uncertainty about the outcome.
From a business perspective the outcome will be much the same over the next two to four years either way. The transition period gives us more or less a standstill on EU regulations and trading relationships. Politically the difference in referendum outcomes would be huge. A Remain result of course would have the advantage of both short- and long-term certainty.
Many business leaders are calling for a people's vote. But with Theresa May backing a deal, and no majority for no-deal in Parliament, no-deal is realistically off the agenda. The choice of the deal and Remain in a People's Vote provides certainty for business for the next few years whoever wins with Remain certainly the best outcome.
Let's remind businesses of all that and urge them to call for a People’s Vote.
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