Dismay among Lancashire business chiefs as political wrangling over Brexit reaches climax.
Business chiefs in Lancashire Â have pleaded with MPs to put their political differences apart and work towards a Brexit deal.
But Prime Minister Theresa May’s preferred deal looks likely to fail in tonight’s Commons vote.
The only question is what happens next.
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “The clock is ticking and as we near the March deadline, businesses are utterly dismayed watching the political wrangling occurring in Westminster.
“Businesses need clarity and precision on the future terms of trade.
“They need to know what customs procedures they will face in the future now.
“Our firms are worried, investors around the world are baffled and disappointed, and markets are showing serious strain as this political saga goes on and on. Businesses need politicians, regardless of party or views on Brexit, to understand that their high-stakes gambles have real-world consequences of the highest order.”
Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick said he expected the Government to lose the vote.
He said it remained to be seen what impact it would have on the Prime Minister – and whether she felt her position was untenable.
Mr Hendrick said he felt an extension to Article 50 was needed.
He said: “The impact on businesses is going to be phenomenal.
“There is a lot of concern.Personally I want to see a Norway-plus style solution with access to the customs union.
“It would give us the best posible Brexit and cause the least disturbance to businesses”
Norway is part of the EU’s single market (it is a member of the European Economic Area), but it is not part of the customs union.
So it sets its own tariffs on goods imported from outside the single market.
But most Norwegian goods are imported tariff-free into the EU.
Theresa May is to present new “assurances” from Brussels to MPs just hours ahead of a crucial Brexit deal vote, Liam Fox has said.
The International Trade Secretary said that the move followed discussions with Brussels in the last few days, with the Prime Minister looking set to lose the meaningful vote.
It came ahead of speech in which Mrs May said Parliament was more likely to block Britain’s exit from the European Union than allow it to crash out without a deal.
She urged MPs to consider the “consequences” of their actions on the faith of British people in democracy.
She was reiterating her warning that “catastrophic harm” will be inflicted to trust in politicians if they fail to implement the result of the referendum.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, meanwhile, criticised “complicated jiggery-pokery” by MPs, warning they were “really playing with fire”.
He told LBC: “I think that people will feel betrayed.
“And I think they will feel that there has been a great conspiracy by the deep state of the UK, the people who really run the country.”
*Watch this space for all the updates as the result of the vote comes in tonight