Significant progress is still needed in the Brexit negotiations to flesh out the final political declaration on the future relationship, Downing Street has said, including addressing some language on customs that had alarmed Brexiters.
Theresa May will play a negotiating role in the final stages before Sunday’s summit in Brussels, her spokesman said, although there is no day set this week for her anticipated meeting with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.
The prime minister had said over the weekend that she intended to go to Brussels this week ahead of the emergency summit on Sunday. No 10 denied that the threat of a possible no-confidence vote was the reason no date had been finalised.
“It is dependent on the negotiations,” her spokesman said.
This is clearly a very intense part of the negotiations, you would expect the prime minister to be working very hard to get the best deal for the UK and her engagement with the commission president is part of that.
A Downing Street source said they anticipated the final political declaration, which sets out aims for the future relationship with the EU alongside the withdrawal agreement, still needed substantial work. It is currently seven pages long in draft form, but officials said they expected the final version to be significantly longer.
May’s speech to the CBI – Summary and analysis
Carolyn Fairbairn, the head of the CBI, warned that UK firms were cancelling investments in Britain as she made the case for backing the prime minister’s Brexit deal.
Speaking ahead of Theresa May at the business lobby group’s annual conference in London, she said investment was “flooding out” of investing in technology and workers’ skills, with some leaving the country altogether.
She said one company had scrapped a £100m investment in the North East of England that had instead gone to Eastern Europe. Although refusing to name the company, she warned the anecdote represented a “pattern” of behaviour among major companies against a backdrop of no-deal Brexit. She said:
Our firms are spending hundreds of millions of pounds preparing for the worst case – and not one penny of it will create new jobs or new products.
While other countries are forging a competitive future, Westminster seems to be living in its own narrow world, in which extreme positions are being allowed to dominate.
Fairbairn said May’s deal was “significantly better than stepping off that cliff” of no deal Brexit in March next year, while adding that the political statement that outlines the future trade deal “does chart a route to frictionless trade” between the UK and the EU in future that was important for business.
On the sidelines of the conference, Ross McEwan, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, told the Guardian it was best to “back the prime minister,” warning that there was no workable alternative on the table.
The chief of the majority government-owned bank, which has made a £100m provision to guard against losses connected to Brexit, said the prime minister’s deal was the only option versus a damaging no-deal scenario. He also said it would give businesses the transition period they required to plan for the final Brexit deal.