Speaking at the Yorkshire Business Awards at the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds, Sir John said that the impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union would be felt on a long-term basis and that business should campaign for what they need to survive and grow before the process takes place.
Sir John, who served as Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, told the audience that Brexit would continue to cause and create uncertainty for the foreseeable future and that it would not end come March 29.
“Life for business is never easy during times of uncertainty.
“Whether one is in favour of Brexit or not, and I emphatically am not, let there be no doubt about that, it will disrupt and be unsettling for our country and its business community for along time. It isn’t going to go away after next Tuesday or after March 29. It will be around a long time.
“And the outcome at present could scarcely be more uncertain.
“The only plea I make today is for business to examine the reality of what lies ahead and make their views swiftly known. Because once the decisions are taken it will be too late. Brexit Is not an interlude, Brexit is probably for good.
“We have been led to a rupture with the richest free trade market in history by decades of misinformation and misunderstanding. For all our sakes, now is the moment to be crystal clear about what is in our national interest.
“The only plea I make today is for business to examine the reality of what lies ahead and make their views swiftly known.
“Because once the decisions are taken it will be too late. Brexit Is not an interlude, Brexit is probably for good.”
Sir John, along with his fellow former Prime Minister campaigned for Remain, has been a been a strident critic of both the decision to leave the EU and the politicians who led it in recent years.
Speaking in Leeds just days after attending the funeral service of former president George Bush, he said: “We have been led to a rupture with the richest free trade market in history by decades of misinformation and misunderstanding.
“For all our sakes, now is the moment to be crystal clear about what is in our national interest.”
His views found a once unlikely backer in the shape of former Labour Home Secretary Lord Blunkett.
Receiving the Bobby Caplin Award for excellence, Lord Blunkett told the audience that he agreed with Sir John’s views.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post prior to his speech he said: “I regret that we are where we are, and that the deal is not as good as anyone would wish.
“But we are leaving on March 29, time is literally running out. Unless you believe there is going to be a second referendum, and I don’t think there is going to be one, or you are in favour of crashing out without a deal - and that would be catastrophic - then we have got to reach an accord with each other.”
Lord Blunkett also predicted that there was a strong chance a deal could be finalised even if Theresa May’s proposals are voted down in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
“There is no question that the Government’s proposals are going to be defeated on Tuesday and there will almost certainly be a motion of no confidence. I think that will be defeated, the DUP are not going to vote to put Labour into power. And therefore after Christmas people are just going to have to get real. In Yorkshire we say it as it is and in the end there has got to be a deal.”
When asked for his thoughts on the stance on Brexit adopted by the current Labour party Lord Blunkett said: “I think that Keir Starmer, Paul Blomfield and the team are playing a very clever and canny hand in the sense that they have managed to keep their party involved. But I think the crunch will be coming very quickly following the vote of no confidence. The Labour party will have to come to terms with the reality that there will have to be a deal.”
The Yorkshire Business Awards, held every December in aid of Variety, the Children’s Charity, raised £138,155 from the event.
The title of Business Leader of the Year went Debbie Bestwick of Team 17 in Wakefield, who praised the video games industry and its ability to provide escapism.
Board of the Year was won by Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, Standout Small Business was won by Sheffield-based Twinkl and SME of the year was won by Sumo Digital.
As well as Lord Blunkett, the Bobby Caplin Yorkshire Legend award was also presented to author and education expert Gervaise Finn, who praised the value young people bring to the world in terms of creating new innovations and developing fresh ways of thinking.
This year’s event was hosted by ITV broadcaster Nina Hossain. The Yorkshire Post is media partner for the awards.