Dominic Raab: UK firms using Brexit as an excuse for poor performance

LONDON — Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has suggested that British firms are using uncertainty around negotiations as an excuse for their own poor performance, insisting that struggling businesses find it “rather easy” to cite Brexit as a reason for slumping profits.

“It’s rather easy for a business to blame Brexit and the politicians rather than to take responsibility for their own situation,” Raab told the BBC Today programme.

He admitted that a disruptive departure from the EU next March remained a possibility, but said that firms were using the prospect as a cover for their own failings.

His comments came after the retailer John Lewis announced a 99% fall in half-year profits on Thursday. The company said that forecasting was difficult “with the level of uncertainty facing consumers and the economy, in part due to ongoing Brexit negotiations,” but it expected full-year profits to be “substantially lower” than last year due to a tough retail environment.

The retailer’s statement did not directly cite Brexit as a factor in its falling profits but said that “cost price inflation from a weaker exchange rate” — which has been attributed to a Brexit-induced slump in the value of the pound — had been a predominant reason for pressure on its margins.

Other British firms have including retailer Maplin and broadcaster ITV and have directly blamed Brexit uncertainty for contributing to a collapse in their profits. A lobby group for the UK car industry also linked falling investment to Brexit uncertainty.

Raab said that he had “no doubt the uncertainty around the negotiations will have an impact on business” but insisted the overall news for the economy this week was “positive.”

The Brexit secretary’s comments come as he prepares to publish the final tranche of no-deal Brexit notices which detail Britain’s preparations for crashing out of the EU without a deal next March.

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