Business will assume there will be a “disorderly Brexit” unless there is clarity on transitional arrangements between Britain and the EU early this year, a leading lobby group has said.
TheCityUK spoke out ahead of what it dubbed a “critical” meeting of the EU’s General Affairs Council in Brussels.
EU ministers will adopt a new set of negotiating directives for Brexit talks, in particular the details on the members states’ position regarding a transition period.
At Monday’s meeting Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will be given a mandate to start discussions with the UK on the transitional arrangements to be included in the withdrawal agreement.
Miles Celic, chief executive officer of TheCityUK, said: “The outcome of today’s meeting is critical.
“There is little time left. If we can’t get clarity on transition early this year, business will have to assume a disorderly Brexit and accelerate contingency plans to protect their customers and clients.”
TheCityUK, which promotes the financial and related professional services industry, has previously said clarity must be provided no later than quarter one in 2018.
Analysis by the group suggests that moving onto World Trade Organisation rules with no transitional arrangements in place after Brexit would put up to 75,000 jobs in the sector at risk.
“Our industry has been very clear on what it wants and how the best outcome could be achieved,” Mr Celic said.
“We are yet to hear from the EU on what its objectives are and how they will ultimately benefit the European economy, European business and the financial costs facing ordinary consumers across the continent.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are engaging extensively with businesses and organisations across the country as we seek to secure a good deal with the EU that works for the whole of the UK.
“We recognise the importance of providing certainty for businesses, which is why we want to reach agreement with the EU on an implementation period as soon as possible.
“We have already made good progress, agreeing in December to move talks onto our future relationship. The EU has said they will offer their most ambitious free trade approach and we are confident of negotiating a deep and special economic partnership.”