European capitals have been beckoning UK-based companies with sops to relocate while Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday insisted that talks were on with EU leaders on a deal that will win support of UK parliament.
As the March 29 deadline to leave the EU nears, new official figures showed that the UK’s GDP took a hit, plunging into reverse in December 2018.
Contracting by 0.4 per cent from November, the figures showed all three drivers of growth in the British economy – services, production and construction shrunken
Labour and ruling Conservative MPs questioned May’s claim that talks were on when top EU leaders had categorically ruled out any re-negotiation of the withdrawal agreement that was voted down in the House of Commons in January.
May insisted in a statement: “The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this House requires and deliver Brexit on time”.
“By getting the changes we need to the backstop; by protecting and enhancing workers’ rights and environmental protections; and by enhancing the role of Parliament in the next phase of negotiations I believe we can reach a deal that this House can support”.
She added: “We can deliver for the people and the communities that voted for change two and half years ago – and whose voices for too long have not been heard. We can honour the result of the referendum”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reflected the frustration of businesses and others by saying that “our country is facing the biggest crisis in a generation, and yet this Prime Minister continues to run down the clock”.
“We were promised there would be a deal last October – that didn’t happen. We were promised a meaningful vote in December – that didn’t happen…Now the Prime Minister comes before the House with more excuses and more delay”.
As some MPs continued to seek an extension of Article 50 that would delay Brexit beyond March 29, and others lobbied for another referendum, the Bank of England downgraded its forecast for 2019 growth to 1.2%, which would be the weakest expansion since 2009.
Rain Newton-Smith of the Confederation of British Industry said: “It’s now crunch time – a no-deal scenario must be taken off the table because the economy is seizing up from uncertainty.
The Bank’s forecasts, when put together with recent business surveys, illustrate the harmful impact on the economy the longer that this goes on”.