Next retail boss U-turns to say No Deal Brexit will cause ‘mild disruption’ at worst – because Boris Johnson’s Government is getting the country ready to leave on October 31
- Lord Wolfson said he will be ‘much less frightened’ No Deal if the Government is well prepared
- Peer said he has ‘every indication’ they are now taking it seriously under new PM
- Next boss previously warned of ‘chaos and disorder’, especially at UK ports
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Chief executive Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise said he will be ‘much less frightened’ of the UK leaving the EU without a deal if the Government is well prepared – and he has ‘every indication’ they are now taking it seriously under the new Prime Minister.
The peer has updated his position because of the change in political leadership, having warned in December that No Deal could lead to ‘chaos and disorder’, especially at the UK’s ports.
He was sharply critical today of the no-deal planning by Theresa May‘s administration, insisting there was ‘almost a wilful attempt’ to not prepare as they did not want to admit it could happen.
The Conservative peer, a prominent Leave campaigner, said the required level of confidence, energy and vigour ‘certainly wasn’t’ in Mrs May’s Government.
Next boss Lord Wolfson of Aspley Guise played down the risks attached to a No deal Brexit
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m very pleased to see that that vigour has now come to government and we are properly preparing for all eventualities.’
Lord Wolfson added of Mrs May’s time in office: ‘I think there was almost a wilful attempt to not prepare in government and mainly out of the fear that they were so scared of no-deal, they wouldn’t allow anyone to admit it could happen.’
He said he believes the current Government is in the process of identifying and solving the problems.
Lord Wolfson added: ‘I think if businesses and the Government prepare well for no-deal then I think the worst outcome will be mild disruption, but the best outcome is we will actually get a better deal – one that is acceptable to Parliament.’
He said the UK has to be ‘prepared to walk away’ to secure the best deal, noting: ‘The vast majority of deals I’ve done in my life, if the deadline has been midnight then the deal has been done at 11.55pm.
‘The reality is very few deals get done long before the deadline and people will negotiate right up to the wire.
Lord Wolfson said Next had moved all its imports and exports out of the French port of Calais to other ports in case of problems between the French hub and Dover (pictured)
‘So I think we’re going to have to have nerves of steel, be prepared for both eventualities – deal and no-deal – and make sure we make the best of whichever one of those outcomes materialises.’
Lord Wolfson has been the boss of the clothing retailer for 18 years and sits as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords, giving him an insight into the workings of the government and the impact its policies have on consumers.
He had previously warned of the perils of a no-deal Brexit.
The Tory peer praised the No Deal preparations that have started under the leadership of Boris Johnson (pictured today in Downing Street)
Though British ports could wave all goods through, Wolfson conceded that the UK government had little influence on what would happen at continental ports. He said Next had moved all its imports and exports out of the French port of Calais to other ports.
Lord Wolfson also said it was ‘very unwise’ to measure the need of someone by just looking at their salary, as he suggested a rethink on the proposed £30,000 migrant salary threshold.
He said: ‘What we need to do is look at immigration on the basis of need and the best measure of need is whether businesses or recruiting from people overseas, because ultimately it is much more expensive to recruit someone from overseas than locally.
‘So if businesses are recruiting people from overseas it tends to be for a very good reason.’
Harrods managing director Michael Ward, asked for his view on a no-deal Brexit, told the same programme: ‘I wouldn’t say I would ever be relaxed about this.
‘We’ve got one of the biggest and momentous decisions that the UK’s ever taken.
‘Nobody has got any idea how goods will move in and out of this country and I always work on the principle it’s never going to be fluid.
‘So we’ve prepared, we’ve got a warehouse full of product that is ready for us to balance our supply chain as we go through Brexit, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.’