Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise, chief executive of Retail Giant Next, said there will only be a “mild disruption” in the event of a no deal Brexit, though a deal is still preferable. He previously said he was nervous about the idea of leaving the EU without a deal, but says he’s changed his mind under the leadership of Boris Johnson. He said he’d been encouraged by Mr Johnson’s ramped-up contingency planning and no longer believed a no deal would bring disorder and chaos.
A week after taking office, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged an extra £2.1bn specifically to prepare for leaving the EU without a deal.
This is in addition to the £4.2bn Theresa May promised to prepare for a range of Brexit scenarios.
Lord Wolfson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he was “much less frightened by no-deal if the Government is prepared and there is every indication it’s taking it more seriously.”
He said: “I think the encouraging thing is that we are rapidly moving from the disorder and chaos camp to the well-prepared camp.
“The fact that HM Revenue & Customs has introduced these transition methods will make an enormous difference.”
However, he did reveal Next has moved some of its business away from the port of Calais in case of any disruption there.
Taking aim at Theresa May’s administration, he said a “willful attempt to not prepare” had not inspired confidence in business.
He said: “They were so scared of no-deal, they couldn’t allow anyone to admit it could happen.
“That’s changing and I think that means in the worst case you get mild disruption.
“In the best case, you get a deal.”
The Next boss has said in the past that in his experience of negotiations, deals were struck only at the eleventh hour.
He claimed that industry was “much better prepared than it was three months before March”.
The Government has said the extra £2.1bn will fund preparations including:
- 500 extra border force officers
- Infrastructure around ports
- Managing traffic disruption in Kent
- Freight capacity, warehousing and stockpiling of medicines
- Public communications to help people and businesses
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