‘Put trade first’ plea as Brexit rows rumble on

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, right, speaks with the UK permanent representative to the EU, Tim Barrow.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, right, speaks with the UK permanent representative to the EU, Tim Barrow.
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Business leaders in Lancashire have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to put trade at the heart of any Brexit negotiations.

The calls come amid endless speculation and uncertainty over the terms of any deals Britain might sign outside the single market.

And the row over Gibraltar’s sovereignty post-Brexit is providing a massive distraction to serious talks between Britain the rest of the EU.

Babs Murphy, chief Executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said after Mrs May triggered Article 50: “Businesses across Lancashire with their customers and suppliers in Europe want real answers to practical questions, not political posturing.

“A rational and grown-up dialogue on the real-world issues, rather than verbal volleys between London and Brussels, would give firms greater confidence over the next two years.”

She added: “In the early stages of negotiations, businesses would like to see an effort to secure simultaneous exit and trade talks. Concluding exit and trade negotiations at the same time would moderate adjustment costs for UK businesses, and enable trade between UK and EU firms to continue with less disruption.

“It is critical that the Government remembers that Brexit is not the only thing on the minds of the business community.”

The future status of the Rock emerged as a potential issue in Brexit talks after European Council president Donald Tusk circulated draft EU negotiating guidelines suggesting Spain would have a veto over the British overseas territory’s participation in a future deal.

​Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses said: “Now that Article 50 has been triggered, it is time for the Government to work towards a pro-business Brexit and give small firms some clarity on how leaving the EU will impact their businesses.”