Manufacturers have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to revoke Article 50 is she cannot secure a Brexit agreement this week amid growing fears the UK could crash out of the EU without a deal.
In an open letter to May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, trade body Make UK said the industry had already been hit by uncertainty and warned a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous for the majority of UK manufacturers and the livelihoods of the millions of people they employ and their families”.
“The majority of our members have told us, in no uncertain terms, that the current situation of short-term extensions and prolonged ambiguity cannot continue,” wrote Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson.
The manufacturers urged the Prime Minister to revoke Article 50 - the means by which the UK leaves the EU - if parliament cannot reach a majority or an agreement with the EU cannot be secured this week.
The intervention comes after May wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk requesting an extension to the Brexit deadline until 30 June.
Make UK said it would support an agreement that took no-deal off the table and included guarantees such as frictionless trade, access to labour and a lengthy transition period.
But it called on May to acknowledge that the current process has not worked if arrangements cannot be made imminently.
“We make this call not to thwart Brexit, but instead feel that it is critical for the future of UK manufacturing businesses and their workforces that we bring the current uncertainty to an end,” Phipson wrote.
But Jayne Adye, director of cross-party pro-Brexit group Get Britain Out, argued businesses are already well-prepared for a no-deal scenario.
“The Prime Minister’s proposed deal is never likely to deliver the desire of 17.4m voters to ‘take back control’ of our borders, money and laws, but this is no reason to revoke Article 50 to pander to the big business’ blackmail,” she said.
“Leaving the EU on no-deal World Trade Organisation terms - as we already trade with over 90 countries around the world - would be the best option, so we can expand on trade all around the world, and to protect jobs and workers across the UK.”
The latest UK manufacturing purchasing managers index revealed Britain’s manufacturing sector had a bumper month in March. But companies said the figures were skewed by stockpiling efforts and warned future output growth would be harmed by a no-deal Brexit.
In the letter Made UK warned the manufacturing sector would be particularly hard-hit if the UK fails to secure a Brexit deal, with the industry’s so-called just-in-time delivery model reliant on smooth trade with Europe.