U.K. Steps Up Talks With Industry as Brexit Disruption Closes In

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The U.K. government is intensifying talks with industry as it seeks to avert Brexit disruption at year-end, with companies facing upheaval even if Britain and the EU sign a trade deal.

Ministers will hold weekly meetings with the country’s five biggest business groups and particularly-affected sectors to discuss Brexit preparations, the Cabinet Office said in an e-mailed statement. The government has previously expressed concern that many firms have their “heads in the sand” and are ill-prepared for Brexit.

“We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone,” Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said in the statement. “We are determined to support businesses to be ready for 1 January 2021 and beyond.”


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When Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union, and irrespective of whether there’s a free-trade agreement, firms will face a wave of new red tape and regulatory barriers on commerce with the bloc. The U.K. government has warned of 7,000 truck-longqueues around the port of Dover in a reasonable-worst-case scenario due to firms not being ready for new EU customs checks.

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“Sectors know there will be disruption no matter what the outcome of ongoing talks,” said Josh Hardie, acting director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, one of the lobby groups that will join the meetings. “Helping firms prepare and mitigate wherever possible is vital.”

Negotiations over a trade agreement — which would keep tariff-free trade between Britain and the EU, but wouldn’t remove the new red tape and obstacles — are due to beextended beyond this weekend’s informal deadline and continue in Brussels next week, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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