Providing an initial response to the announcement that the UK and EU have reached a trade agreement, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:
“After four long years of uncertainty and upheaval, and just days before the end of transition, businesses will be able to muster little more than a muted and weary cheer.
“While firms will welcome the agreement of a new foundation for UK-EU trade, they are now faced with the gargantuan task of adapting to new arrangements with scarcely a week before they take effect.
“Businesses will need to digest the contents of the deal and consider what its provisions mean for the movement of goods, people and data across borders, as well as for their supply chains and partners.
“We repeat that it is the responsibility of Government to give firms clear, precise and detailed guidance so that they can make the required changes quickly. Far too many details and procedures have been left, literally, to the last minute.
“Let’s not forget that many businesses are already on their knees from the impact of the Coronavirus crisis, and most will have fewer resources available to implement the necessary changes with furloughed staff and Christmas holidays.
“Governments on both sides must recognise the impossible task they have set businesses and give businesses time and breathing space to adjust to new realities. It is normal for free trade agreements to come with phasing-in measures, and this one should be no different.
“Now that the two sides have reached agreement, we call on them to proceed speedily to ratification to give certainty to our economies and trade, and to allow businesses to look to the future.
“It is now time to bring the political drama of the last four years to an end, and to replace it with pragmatism and determination to make the new UK-EU relationship work. The agreement can and must be a starting point for deeper cooperation as we restart, rebuild and renew our economies.
“With greater clarity on the terms of trade, businesses can plan, invest, and look once again toward new opportunities.”