Business secretary Greg Clark told Wealden business leaders last night that he believed a majority in Parliament would support a Brexit deal within the next two to three weeks.
The secretary of state said he had detected a sea change in the mood of MPs. It had been a turbulent week but he felt a sense of progress.
Mr Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, met local business leaders at a reception organised by Wealden Conservatives, at Hendall Manor Barns, at Herons Ghyll, near Uckfield.
He said a number of votes had been taken in Parliament this week but it was significant there wasn’t an amendment to have a second referendum.
Mr Clark said he was certain there wasn’t a majority in Parliament for another referendum and that was a piece of clarity gained.
In addition, he said, there was a majority to have a deal rather than no deal. It was clear that there was a majority wanting to reach an agreement.
“My view is that we will try to resolve this within the next two to three weeks rather than seeing this go right to March 28, the day before Brexit.”
Paul Bendit of Folkington’s, which produces fruit juices, said he was increasingly concerned about a no-deal Brexit.
He moved raw materials and packaging materials across the EU border every day of the week and if that became impossible, he would, like many other businesses, simply not have a business model that worked, so they would stop.
Mr Bendit said: “Right now it looks as if that is a likely outcome. What will the Government do on March 29 to avoid us being the only country in the world that only trades on World Trade Organisation rules.”
Mr Clark said it was imperative there was a deal. “People need to come together and I think they will. I see signs of this. We can’t be without a deal.”
He said the consequences of leaving in a disorderly way on March 29 would be “disastrous”.
Looking forward Mr Clark said once there was agreement the prospects looked good for the UK. Brexit uncertainty was affecting the level of investment but that would change once a deal was done.
He talked about innovation and ingenuity which would attract overseas investment, the development of electric cars, building satellites, artificial intelligence and in the agricultural industry.
Jeremy Woolgar of Crowborough Chamber of Commerce said small businesses had been hit by an increase in their costs because of workplace pensions, by the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation, and the introduction of quarterly reporting which meant they had to use subscription-based accountancy packages rather than the software they already owned.
Mr Clark said the Government still had a commitment to reduce the burden of regulation on businesses and that would be done over the course of this Parliament.
Chris Lawson, president of Uckfield Chamber of Commerce was concerned there didn’t seem to be a feeling of ‘caring capitalism’ any more and he was worried that would have an impact with people not wanting to go into business at all.
Mr Clark said business was not only a force for good but it was impossible to imagine society, let alone the economy, could be successful without successful business.
He added entrepreneurship clubs were booming in universities and more businesses were being created in this country than ever before.