Simon Wolfson, Chief executive of the clothing retailer Next, has told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the UK is close to being well prepared in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Wolfson, who sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative life peer, had previously warned of disruption at UK ports and of higher prices in its shops, but now says that as a result of serious contingency preparations in the event that the UK and EU fail to ratify a satisfactory deal, ‘gridlock and chaos‘ are a long way off.
Simon Wolfson at a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016.
Next PLC, which has seen its online sales soar in recent years, has moved all of its imports and exports out of Calais to other ports in the expectation of no deal, and Lord Wolfson has as a result said, ‘I think the encouraging thing is that we are rapidly moving from the disorder and chaos camp to the well-prepared camp‘.
The comments from the retail giant’s chief executive today coincide with ComRes polling data for the Telegraph which allege that a majority of voters (54%) agree with the sentiment that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, ‘needs to deliver Brexit by any means, including suspending Parliament if necessary‘. However, the presentation of the results for this poll has been dubbed ‘dire‘. This is due to the fact that when ‘don’t know’ respondents are included only 44% support proroguing Parliament. Furthermore, pollsters claim that the sequencing and wording of the questions are leading.
Wolfson, a prominent voice for the Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum, whilst acknowledging that it remained his preferred choice for the UK to leave on the 31 October with a deal, added that ‘nerves of steel‘ were required to prepare for any outcome.
Prime Minister Johnson has pledged a one-off cash boost of £1.8 billion for the NHS to immediately help frontline services after Brexit.
He said of the negotiations, ‘I am much less frightened of no deal if government is well prepared, and we’ve got every indication that they are now taking that seriously‘. These words are an apparent attack on Theresa May’s administration’s ‘wilful attempt to not prepare‘ for an outcome that it ‘couldn’t allow anyone to admit it could happen‘.
In stark contrast to this alleged approach, Boris Johnson has told civil servants that his government’s ‘top priority‘ is now planning for no deal.
The current legal default position is that the UK will leave the EU either with a ratified deal or with no deal at 11pm on 31 October 2019, with the Institute for Government admitting that there now seems little chance of MPs stopping such an outcome.