Brexit Uncertainty ‘Devastating’ U.K.’s Economic Relations

(Bloomberg) --

Brexit-related uncertainty is “devastating” the U.K.’s economic relations with European partners and many buyers of British goods are actively looking for alternative sources of supply, according to a leading German business lobby.

Companies in Europe’s biggest economy currently won’t sign sign long-term delivery contracts with British partners and are stocking up on goods wherever possible, Holger Bingmann, president of Germany’s BGA association of exporters and wholesalers, said in an emailed response to Bloomberg.

“There is an unbelievable amount of uncertainty, as fundamental questions on customs documentation or product registration have not been resolved,” Bingmann said. “Even British firms are asking our members how they should deal with the situation.”

The warnings from German business highlight the damage the wrangling over Brexit is causing economic activity. After rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal, lawmakers will decide later Wednesday whether to take Britain out of the European Union with no agreement in place in 16 days’ time, or delay Brexit in a bid to secure better terms.

“Rejecting the Brexit deal jeopardizes the well-being of citizens and the economy in a negligent way,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after Tuesday’s vote in London. “Unfortunately, I can only say at this point that Germany has also prepared itself in the best possible way for the worst-case scenario.”

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier sounded a more upbeat tone, suggesting the rejection by lawmakers of a no-deal Brexit later on Wednesday would be an opportunity to “unite millions in the U.K. and Europe” and “create hope and solidarity.”

“Whatever you finally decide, good luck dear friends,” Altmaier wrote in a Tweet.

As German businesses seek alternative supplies, there have been agreements, as far as possible, to buy goods from the same manufacturer but from a location that will definitely still be within the EU after March, Bingmann said.

A study published by Germany’s BDI industry lobby last week showed the key auto sector is most affected by Brexit uncertainty and firms are reining in investment as a result. A quarter of German companies plan to cut jobs if Britain is unable to secure an exit deal, with the autos, banking and consumer goods sectors most severely affected.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.