The UK Government should seek to secure an extension to the two-year-long Brexit negotiations if an EU trade deal is not brokered, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged Theresa May on Tuesday (28 February).

The business body said the ideal outcome for companies would be for the EU exit talks and the UK's future trade agreement with the economic and political bloc to be concluded simultaneously.

The call from the BCC coincides with the group's annual conference in Westminster and comes just weeks before May plans to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and trigger Brexit talks.

"Business communities across the UK want practical considerations, not ideology or politics, at the heart of the Government's approach to Brexit negotiations," said Adam Marshall, the director general of the BCC.

"What's debated in Westminster often isn't what matters for most businesses.

"Most firms care little about the exact process for triggering Article 50, but they care a lot about an unexpected VAT hit to their cash flow, sudden changes to regulation, the inability to recruit the right people for the job, or if their products are stopped by customs authorities at the border.

"The everyday nitty-gritty of doing business across borders must be front and centre in the negotiation process. What's also clear is that the eventual Brexit deal is far from the only thing on the minds of the UK's business communities."

The BBC also urged the Government to provide certainty for businesses on the residence rights of their existing EU workers, while calling on ministers to maintain access to the European Investment Bank.

Conservative MP Anna Soubry, a supporter of the pro-EU group Open Britain, said: "Businesses across Britain are telling us that leaving the European Union with no deal would be damaging for our economy, hitting our trade and costing jobs.

"If it proves impossible to agree a good free trade deal with Europe at the end of the Article 50 process, it is essential that we arrange a transitional deal that will maintain our current terms of trade and prevent the economy from going over a cliff edge.

"This underlines why MPs should have a meaningful vote on the final deal once negotiations have been completed. We cannot be allowed to crash out with no deal at all without parliamentary approval."

May's 12-point Brexit plan

  1. Government will provide certainty and clarity to politicians and businesses.
  2. UK will 'control our own laws' by quitting the European Court of Justice.
  3. May will strengthen the 'precious union' between England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
  4. There will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  5. UK will 'control' EU immigration, while recruiting the 'brightest and the best' from around the world.
  6. Government will seek a reciprocal residency rights deal for EU and UK workers 'as soon as possible'.
  7. May has promised to protect workers' rights.
  8. Ministers will seek a 'bold' and 'comprehensive' free trade agreement with the EU.
  9. UK will seek a customs agreement so that it can broker its own trade deals with non-EU nations.
  10. May will keep European science and innovation ties in bid to keep the UK a 'world leader'.
  11. UK will continue to work with the EU in bid a bid to combat the threat of terrorism.
  12. Ministers will seek to avoid a 'cliff edge' and seek a smooth split from the EU.