The chief of executive of leading business organisation London First has urged MPs to “stop the clock on Brexit to avoid crashing out with no deal” by “extending Article 50 or, better still, revoking it”.
Jasmine Whitbread was responding to call by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to extend Article 50 by a year in order to consult voters more fully and to, as he put it, “avoid chaos on 29 March and prevent an impending national political disaster”.
Parliament might have the opportunity to vote for an extension of the withdrawal process timetable next week if they first again reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal and then reject a “no deal” approach.
Whitbread, like Brown, said that extending or revoking Article 50 would “allow the time and breathing space needed to find a way forward that parliament can support”, adding “if that can’t be done, the decision must go back to the people”.
Extending Article 50 would require the blessing of all EU member states and mean that Brexit would be postponed. The European Court of Justice ruled in December that it would be legal for the UK to unilaterally revoke Article 50 and therefore cancel Brexit. However, the Prime Minister has ruled this out and MPs do not currently have the option of revocation before them.
In January, prior to the first Commons vote on May’s deal, London First, which represents many of the capital’s largest employers and a number of its leading education institutions, urged the government to “buy more time” in order to secure a deal MPs would back and if unsuccessful to hold a second referendum.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly warned against a “no deal” outcome and last week held a meeting attended by Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, London Fire Brigade chief Dany Cotton, Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown and health service and local government officials to “review how well the capital is prepared” to cope with one.
London First says that a recent “snapshot poll” of its members found that the senior management teams of almost one in five of them are now spending one day a week on Brexit preparations. The organisation has also been advocating a “pro-growth” immigration approach post-Brexit to ensure that the capital and the UK as a whole continues to be able to hire the workers it needs.