U.K. Business Warns of ‘Brexit Emergency’ as No-Deal Risk Grows

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s biggest business lobby group took the rare step of joining forces with labor unions to warn Theresa May that she’s presiding over a “national emergency” on Brexit.

Avoiding a no-deal split with the European Union is “paramount” and securing an extension to the process is “essential,” Confederation of British Industry Director General Carolyn Fairbairn and Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady said in a letter. The two also requested an “urgent meeting” with the prime minister.

“Our country is facing a national emergency,” they wrote. “Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no-deal to soar. Firms and communities across the U.K. are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt for generations to come.”

The unusual alliance between employers and the umbrella group for labor unions that represent their workers adds to the pressure on May as she faces her European counterparts to request a three-month Brexit delay at a summit in Brussels.

On Wednesday, May suggested she will countenance a departure from the European Union without a deal if Parliament refuses to approve the agreement she’s struck for the third time. The premier also said she’s not prepared to ask for a longer extension that would force Britain to participate in European elections in May.

Pressure Builds

Business lobby groups have been ratcheting up their rhetoric as May suffered two huge Parliamentary defeats on the Brexit deal she’s spent two years brokering with the bloc. The uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure has strangled investment and forced companies to take measures including stockpiling, seeking alternative suppliers and moving operations to mainland Europe.

May is asking EU leaders to grant her a one-off, three-month extension to the Brexit negotiating period so she can get her deal through Parliament. EU leaders have pushed back, saying they’ll only concede the delay if she can persuade U.K. lawmakers to back her deal. That gives the prime minister until next Friday to do so, with the default being a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

Fairbairn and O’Grady urged May to abandon the idea that the choice is between her Brexit deal and no deal, saying a Plan B “must be found” that protects workers and the economy, keeps an open border with Ireland and can be supported by both the EU and Parliament.

This could involve giving politician in the House of Commons the chance to express their views on various Plan B options, through a series of so-called “indicative votes,” they said. “A new approach is needed.”

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