Greg Wright: Why a no-deal Brexit would wreck the Tory party's relationship with business

Many business leaders are worried about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Picture: PA
Many business leaders are worried about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Picture: PA
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FOR generations, the Conservatives have been regarded as the natural home for ambitious, self-made men - and women - who want their business to shine on the global stage.

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During the Thatcher era, leading business organisations were willing to place their shoulders to the wheel to support reforms that were aimed at making Britain more enterprising and competitive.
These same organisations have watched with thinly veiled horror as Britain - under a Tory Prime Minister - sprints towards the cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit. The pain and cost of leaving the EU without a deal will be borne by many of the business leaders who would have been cheerleaders for Thatcherism.
I sense it is already too late to re-build bridges. Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI, told The Yorkshire Post, that, increasingly, business leaders were growing less confident about their ability to compete on a long-term basis due to the ongoing uncertainty over tariffs and potential disruption to supply chains.
Edwin Morgan, the interim director general of the Institute of Directors, warned the new Prime Minister in July: “It’s crucial that the incoming administration recognises that this is a daunting time for many firms, and is prepared to back them.
“The UK faces long-term skills challenges that have contributed to stalling productivity growth across sectors and regions. Firms are crying out for infrastructure upgrades, while high costs and uncertainty are often stalling their own investment plans.
“A no deal Brexit would only add to the uncertainty and distract from these challenges..But whatever shape Brexit takes it is businesses that will bear much of the brunt of adapting, so we will continue to lead the charge for greater support for preparation.”
The CBI has published a series of practical steps it believes the UK, EU and businesses can take to reduce the worst effects of a no-deal Brexit. The CBI bluntly concluded that “no one is ready for no deal”.
The CBI added: “While there are actions that will make a difference, even if every one of these recommendations were implemented, the long- and short-term impacts of no deal are still of great concern.
“The CBI has concluded that many of the consequences of no deal will be felt for years to come – acting as a self-inflicted drag on the UK’s economy for the next decade and more.
“The only way to avoid the negative consequences of no deal on jobs and livelihoods is to strike a deal with the EU.”
Firms are desperate for clarity so they can plan for life beyond Brexit. Some politicians must display greater empathy with bosses who are worried about no-deal and not dismiss their concerns as a further manifestation of “Project Fear”.
But there are few signs of more stable times ahead. Conservative MPs are being told by whips that they will be barred from running for the party in an election if they do not back the Government, as part of Mr Johnson’s “do or die” approach to delivering Brexit by the October 31 deadline.
With the Tories having a majority of just one with the DUP’s support, removing the whip from rebels would further weaken his hold on Parliament and increase the chances of an election.
Britain’s long-suffering business leaders cannot contain their exasperation at the abject performance of the political classes. Instead of investing, many are stockpiling and fretting about possible supply chain chaos after October 31. Not the sort of economic legacy that any Tory PM could be proud of.