Death, taxes and Brexit by October 31. These were meant to be the certainties in life – but the weekend’s so-called ‘Super Saturday’ didn’t go the way Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have hoped, fizzling out without the anticipated ‘Meaningful Vote’ on the nature of our withdrawal from the European Union.
But while the business community remains as divided as the rest of the country on the pros and cons of the UK going it alone, it was notable that some major British businesses urged MPs to support the current deal on the table, at least in order to escape the uncertainty and irrespective as to whether their long-term views had been to Leave or Remain.
Here, we have grouped businesses by what they have said in recent years – whether they’ve been pro-Brexit before and since the 2016 referendum, always on the side of remain, or backing Boris to get this latest deal over the line…
“Business is about uncertainty. There’s always uncertainty in business, about exchange rates, conditions in markets, natural disasters…
“I think uncertainty is an opportunity, and the opportunity here is actually that the rest of the world is growing at a far greater rate than Europe, so the opportunity is to export to the rest of the world and to capitalise on that.”
Sir James Dyson, Chief Executive
“Despite continuing political problems, stemming from the transfer of democratic power to a technocratic elite, Wetherspoons continues to perform well.”
Tim Martin, Chairman
“You didn’t find many people in our situation saying: ‘Europe isn’t working, it would be better if we had control ourselves,’ but most businesses are afraid of change. They have traded the way they have for 40 years. For us we had to have change; the status quo was going to kill us.”
Gerald Mason, Senior Vice President
“Any changeover to trading on WTO terms will prove somewhat disruptive to businesses. My message is simple: businesses will adapt. It will not be the end of the world.”
Lord Anthony Bamford, Chairman
“The truth is that Britain can make a success of Brexit. Many nations, far smaller than our own, thrive outside a single market or customs union.
“From Canada, Australia and New Zealand, through to South Korea and Singapore, great nations have proven that independence need not mean isolation or impoverishment.
“Delivered in the right way, an open Brexit could – and I passionately believe will – herald an economic renaissance for our country.”
Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive
“While of course the EU needs continuously to adapt and improve, we believe that is best achieved when the UK has the self-confidence to lead in Europe, as it has done so effectively in the past, for example on issues like the single market and enlargement.”
Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer
“We are seeing softness in both the UK and Europe, which we believe comes from macroeconomic uncertainty and many unanswered questions surrounding Brexit which are together driving weaker customer demand.”
Johan Lundgren, Chief Executive
“The UK’s national interest is best served, I think, by staying in the European Union. It’s nuts to leave it, but if you are going to leave, the first thing you’ve got to do on the day after you leave is renegotiate a trade deal with the European Union.”
Michael O’Leary, Chief Executive Officer
“Irrespective of Brexit, London will remain a global financial centre, and the revenue impact of Brexit on financial services will be made good in two to three years’ time.”
Stuart Gulliver, former Group Chief Executive
“I can’t think of one thing about our membership of the EU that has impacted negatively on my business. I only see it as a positive and it really scares me in terms of our growth plans that we would be going back down that road.”
Jacqueline Gold, Chief Executive
In favour of the current deal
presented by Boris Johnson
“There are ratification hurdles remaining but further certainty, at this stage, would be very welcome.”
Jes Staley, Chief Executive Officer
“This is the first step away from the cliff edge and so deserves everyone’s support. We understand that there is a long battle for a trade deal and to work out our future relationship but this is the start. We are hoping that MPs see common sense in the vote tomorrow.”
Paul Manduca, Chairman in the UK
“Leaving is simply the start of a long journey, staying in a continuous loop of renegotiation offers neither the much-needed clarity and certainty that business requires.”
Roger Carr, Chairman
“I think this deal isn’t ideal – someone has pointed out that there isn’t a lot of difference between what Theresa May had and what Boris Johnson has. But I think this deal now is the best deal we’ll get – it is better, absolutely, than a hard Brexit.
“I support it, I hope that business will. I’m involved with businesses in the car industry, the food industry and the clothing industry and I can tell you that the people in the businesses I’m involved in, they want to move on.”
Stuart Rose, Chairman
“If the deal passes through Parliament we should see stronger growth in the UK economy as the cloud of Brexit uncertainty lifts. Importantly this is a big step toward avoiding a no-deal Brexit where the UK would have crashed out of the EU possibly causing a damaging recession.”
Keith Wade, Chief Economist
Not sure how leaving the EU will impact your business? Read our guide on how to prepare for Brexit.