More than half of UK firms do not think the Government is prioritising their needs ahead of Brexit negotiations, according to new figures revealed to Sky News.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said companies wanted answers to “salt of the earth” practical questions on issues such as customs, regulations and recruitment when Britain leaves the EU.
There was also disquiet about discussions on future trading arrangements being delayed, according to the BCC.
A poll by the organisation of 2,400 businesses found 54% disagreed with a statement that their needs were being prioritised.
That included 34% who strongly disagreed, and 20% who somewhat disagreed. Just 24% agreed that the needs of British businesses were being prioritised.
BCC director-general Adam Marshall told Sky’s Ian King Live: “Firms are telling us they really want the economy, they want business to be put first and they don’t always feel that’s the case.
“During the election campaign there was a sense that business and economy didn’t feature at all – it was absent and conspicuous by its absence.”
Image: Adam Marshall is the director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce
However he said that since the poll last month there had been more engagement with business.
The poll comes as the City reportedly prepares to send a delegation to Brussels with proposals for a post-Brexit free trade deal for financial services.
Meanwhile, a separate report by the Association for Financial Markets in Europe has estimated that a hard Brexit would cost UK-based lenders €15bn in restructuring expenses and €40bn in capital requirements.
Mr Marshall said that firms wanted answers to practical questions.
He said: “Will my goods be stopped in customs? Do the standards I apply now change after we leave the EU? What about the regulations?
“Who can I hire? How long can they stay in the business?
“These are the sort of salt of the earth practical questions that I get from small businesses, medium-sized businesses and indeed big multinationals alike.”
Mr Marshall said there was disquiet that Brexit talks had put off the question of future trading arrangements until later in the process.
“We’d like to see that conversation start now because it lets businesses begin to plan, it lets them put together investment strategies, and I think crucially gives them the confidence that both sides are keen on reaching a reasonable deal,” he said.
The Government declined to comment but has stressed in recent days that it is keen to engage with business over Brexit.
Splits have emerged since the election over the approach to Brexit with Chancellor Philip Hammond last month stressing the UK should take a pragmatic approach, prioritising jobs and prosperity in remarks that contrasted Theresa May’s insistence that no deal would be better than a bad deal.
It was claimed over the weekend that both Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson might want the Prime Minister to rethink her “red lines” on Britain’s EU exit.