Peterborough business leaders have warned that bosses are becoming increasingly frustrated at political wrangling over Brexit.
The alarm has been sounded by Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses after Prime Minister Theresa May delayed the ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal to leave the EU and was then left facing a leadership challenge.
John Bridge, the chamber’s chief executive, said: “Local businesses are clear, time is rapidly running out. With just over 100 days to go until March 29, many are already enacting contingency plans in the absence of clarity from Westminster.
“Even basic business planning for next year has become difficult, if not impossible, for many companies and their investors. Our research shows in a ‘no deal’ scenario, many businesses would cut investment and recruitment, or move some of their operations elsewhere. Survey after survey has shown businesses will take decisions that are right for them, but may damage the UK economy.”
Mr Bridge added: “The businesses we speak to and represent are looking on with utter dismay at the ongoing saga in Westminster.
“They express concern that politicians are seemingly acting in their own interest, with little regard for the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the success of UK business and trade.
“Our local businesses need clarity and precision on the UK’s future relationship with the EU and with other key trading partners.
“It is essential that there is focus on wealth creation which is the only source of funding for all government expenditure.”
The chamber’s warning comes as the new figures published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) indicate a drop in confidence among small firms in the east of England.
It says its confidence measure - based on a survey of members - stands at minus 13 for the last quarter of the year compared to minus 9.9 last year and minus 2.9 after the EU referendum.
Alan Todd, area leader for Cambridgeshire, said: “We’ve not seen political uncertainty weighing on small business confidence like this for many years.
“Planning ahead has now become impossible for a lot of firms as we simply don’t know what environment we’ll be faced with in little more than 100 days’ time.
“They need the Brexit issue resolved so we can get back to issues on the domestic agenda: a late payment crisis that destroys 50,000 firms a year, an outdated business rates system and spiralling employment costs.
He added: “A pro-business Brexit is one that ensures we can trade easily with the EU and have access to the skills we need.
“The latter is already proving a challenge and – if we crash out of the EU on March 29 without a deal – the former will go out the window.”