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Mon, 16 Dec 2019 03:08 GMT

Top CEO Says UK Can Avoid No-Deal Brexit Disorder

Business

7Dnews London

Tue, 13 Aug 2019 13:36 GMT

The UK can avoid disorder and chaos in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the boss of clothing retailer Next said on Tuesday August 13th, according to Reuters.

Next CEO Simon Wolfson, a prominent leave supporter, told the BBC he hoped new Prime Minister Boris Johnson could secure a deal with the EU before the October 31st exit date.

However, he said the government's increased focus on contingency planning, including simplified customs and border procedures, meant the UK was now much better prepared than it was for the original March 29th Brexit deadline.

Wolfson has been CEO of clothing retailer Next for 18 years and as a Conservative peer, he sits in the upper house of the UK parliament, giving him an insight into the workings of the government and the impact its policies have on consumers. He had previously warned of the perils of a no-deal Brexit.

"We're a long way from gridlock and chaos. I think the fact that HMRC (the UK tax authority) have introduced these transitional measures will make an enormous difference," he said.

"We are rapidly moving from the gridlock and chaos camp into the well-prepared camp. To have the government and civil service that is now determinedly endeavouring to make sure that we are prepared is really important."

He said the government of Theresa May had failed to prepare adequately for a no-deal exit, a situation he said was now being addressed by her successor, Boris Johnson.

Wolfson said he much preferred a deal to no-deal, "But I'm much less frightened of no-deal if the government's well prepared. We've got every indication that they are now taking that seriously."

He told the BBC any deal struck by Johnson with the EU was likely to be last minute. "In the vast majority of deals I've done, if the deadline is midnight, the deal gets done at 11.55 pm, but we need to have nerves of steel and prepare ourselves for either outcome." he said.

Though British ports could waive all restrictions on goods, Wolfson conceded that the UK government had little influence on what would happen at continental ports. He said Next had moved all its imports and exports out of the French port of Calais to others.

Wolfson's stance contrasts starkly with dire warnings from some business groups.

Last week Britain's food and drink lobby group warned that the country will experience shortages of some fresh foods for weeks or even months if a disorderly no-deal Brexit leaves perishable produce rotting in lorries at ports.

Europe