The head of Amazon UK has warned Brexit secretary Dominic Raab that if Britain leaves the EU with no deal it could lead to “civil unrest” within two weeks, in a meeting on Friday with other business leaders.
Doug Gurr, the American retail giant’s UK manager, became the first representative of business to issue such a stark warning to government. It is said to have stunned those present, with some expressing skepticism at his comments, reports the Times.
The Amazon UK chief told Raab and other representatives of Britain’s largest businesses that this was a worst-case scenario and formed part of his company’s contingency planning.
A spokesman for Amazon declined to confirm or deny the comments but said: “Like any business, we consider a wide range of scenarios in planning discussions so that we’re prepared to continue serving customers and small businesses who count on Amazon, even if those scenarios are very unlikely.
“This is not specific to any one issue — it’s the way we plan for any number of issues around the world.”
Gurr’s comments came at a day-long meeting of UK business executives and Raab at Chevening, the government’s country retreat in Kent.
Some of those present included, Dame Inga Beale, chief executive of Lloyd’s of London; Sir Ian Cheshire, chairman of Barclay; Andy Higginson, chairman of the grocery chain WM Morrison; and Sinead Lynch, UK country chairwoman at Shell. It was the third such meeting between top business chiefs and Brexit ministers.
Raab who appeared on BBC One’s ‘The Andrew Marr Show’ on Sunday, was asked about reports that the UK government was planning for Britain to stockpile medicines and food in the event of a no deal. The Brexit secretary would only disclose that these reports were “selective snippets.”
He maintained that a deal with the EU could be brokered by October despite the sluggish nature of negotiations with the bloc. Ardent pro-EU Tory, Dominic Grieve, has echoed Gurr’s concerns over a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, claiming such a scenario would be “absolutely catastrophic.” He told Sky News: “We will be in a state of emergency – basic services we take for granted might not be available.”
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for a “serious stepping-up” of talks to avoid Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a cabinet meeting in Gateshead on Monday to discuss her Brexit deal. Last week EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, questioned May’s EU withdrawal proposals. He also dismissed British plans on the City of London’s access to the European financial market post-Brexit, claiming they would undermine the power of Brussels.