British business expresses its ‘utter dismay’ over May vote

Theresa May has been accused of "caving in" to Conservative Brexiteers

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any harder for businesses to plan ahead, a vote of no-confidence with a potential change in leadership comes along.

According to the British Chambers of Commerce, it is impossible to exaggerate the “utter dismay” among worried businesses.

The sound of contingency plans being triggered or accelerated was turned up around corporate Britain the moment Theresa May decided to kick the vote on her deal into the New Year. As one supermarket executive told me, “we are now at squeaky bum time”.

But what can business do?

Different sectors are more or less able to prepare but there are three common denominators – inventory, cash flow and foreign exchange.

Those that can, have been building stocks of parts and products for some months.

Finance directors are trying to make sure they have enough cash at hand to see them through disruption, meaning any discretionary spending is being squeezed.

Firms with exposure to foreign exchange volatility are looking at locking in rates.

After a pretty sharp fall on Monday, the pound has been stable but traders will tell you the pound will react very differently depending on whether this period ends with the PM’s deal, a second vote, no deal, or no Brexit.

The possibility of a change of leader, and the weeks it would take to select and install one, have made these contingencies more pressing for businesses trying to create their own small certainties in a vast certainty vacuum.