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UK business gives cautious welcome to Brexit extension

UK business gives cautious welcome to Brexit extension

Anti-Brexit protesters are seen outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON: Britain's main business lobby group on Thursday (Apr 11) gave a cautious welcome to news of yet another Brexit extension - but also urged an end to the "chaos".

European leaders have agreed with British Prime Minister Theresa May to delay Brexit until Oct 31 at the latest, saving the continent from a chaotic no-deal departure on Friday.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which is the country's biggest employers' organisation, said that the overnight development averts a messy no-deal "economic crisis".

However, the influential lobby group also called for May to end Brexit uncertainty and seek cross-party consensus over the way forward.

"This new extension means imminent economic crisis has been averted, but it needs to mark a fresh start," said CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn in a tweet.

"For the good of jobs and communities across the country, all political leaders must use the time well.

"Sincere cross-party collaboration must happen now to end this chaos."

The deal struck during late night talks in Brussels means that, if London remains in the EU after May 22, British voters will have to take part in European elections - or crash out on Jun 1.

The British premier was given until Oct 31 to pass her withdrawal deal for leaving the bloc through parliament, having failed three times already to do so.

CBI president John Allan also sounded a cautious note, adding that businesses would continue to bear the cost of holding extra stock in case of further turmoil.

"This isn't a definitive extension," Allan told BBC Radio 4.

"The cost of holding all that additional inventory will continue.

He called on politicians to start thinking about the national interest and added that a second referendum might be needed if politicians cannot break the impasse.

"My personal view is if the politicians can't get their act together ... the only other option is to go back to the people and have a second referendum.

"One way or the other we've just got to break out this impasse that we've got at the moment and get an agreement."

Earlier this month, the business lobby had joined forces with union leaders in an unusual alliance to warn May that Britain faced a "national emergency" over a possible no-deal Brexit.

The CBI and union umbrella organisation the Trades Union Congress had urged May to change tack and find a "Plan B" to avert a no-deal departure.

Prior to this week, EU leaders had already agreed to delay Brexit from Mar 29 to Apr 12.

Source: AFP/aa

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