Britain’s foremost trade union body and industry lobby group have joined forces to demand Theresa May urgently changes her approach to Brexit, warning the country now faces a national emergency.
Writing a joint letter to the prime minister, the heads of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) said a plan B needed to be drawn up as quickly as possible to avoid a damaging no-deal departure from as early as next week.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, and Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director-general, wrote in the letter published ahead of the crunch EU summit in Brussels: “Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar.
“Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.”
Representing millions of workers and tens of thousands of businesses between them, the employers’ group and trades union umbrella body told May to take three urgent steps, starting with a commitment to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
They said securing an extension beyond 29 March had become essential with only days to go, although they warned that it also needed to be “long enough for a deal to be agreed”.
May said on Wednesday that she had written to the EU seeking a brief extension of the negotiating period for article 50 until the end of June. The prime minister said on Wednesday evening in a direct address to the nation that delaying Brexit was a matter of “great personal regret”.
In a final demand, the TUC and CBI said that a plan B for Brexit was urgently required, including allowing MPs to hold indicative votes on the best ways to reach a consensus way forward, or another mechanism for compromise.
“A plan B must be found – one that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, commands a parliamentary majority and is negotiable with the EU. A new approach is needed to secure this,” Fairbairn and O’Grady said.