LAST night’s no-deal amendment vote will make very little difference to the Brexit process, says a leading business expert.

Speaking to the News & Star, the chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Rob Johnston, said: “The first thing to bear in mind is that we can’t just take the idea of no-deal off the table, it is enshrined in law.

“What we are talking about is making it clear that we don’t want a no-deal outcome, but we can’t rule it out without changing the law.”

Mr Johnston says that the options the government has in front of it are clear.

“No-deal is the default position we get unless Parliament agrees a deal. With no-deal there is no transitional arrangements at all, which would impact on business. We come out on WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules.

“If we vote for Theresa May’s agreement, we leave the EU, but we stay in the EU and customs union until late 2020 while we agree the future trading agreement.

“The UK could also ask to delay Article 50, but this needs the agreement of all 27 members states. They would only agree to this though if it was to facilitate a different option (e.g. a second referendum, a vote on alternative plans etc).

“We also have the option to revoke Article 50, which we could do without the agreement of the EU.”

The impacts of no-deal on the economy are hard to predict, according to the business leader.

“The impact of the no-deal outcome depends on the tariffs,” explained Mr Johnston.

If the UK were to crash out with no arrangements in place by way of tariffs, consumers and businesses would be hit, says the business leader.

“If we came crashing out on WTO terms there would be a problem with food as the Government doesn’t want inflation to rise, particularly around food.

“If you end up with shortages around food, we may have to reduce tariffs to zero and if you do that you are accepting anything that is coming in. This opens the market to anything, which would be a big problem for our businesses.”

In his Spring Statement yesterday, Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a range of tariffs that will be applied in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

“Some businesses will see tariffs of 25 per cent, which would obviously cripple the business. It is very difficult to quantify (the impact of a no-deal) until you look at the individual policies

“Either way it is going to cause a lot of problems. Some will be impacted; some will see business fade away. It is not just business trade; it is their supply chains that they are reliant upon to survive.”

  • What is the difference between the Single Market and the Customs Union?

Mr Johnston explained: “In the Single Market member states have to pay into the EU budget and accept free movement of people, but have no tariffs on trade with other member states.

“In the Customs Union there are no tariffs for all member states, it removes the need for checks on the border of Ireland.”

It is like a partial customs union, where controls only apply in certain areas, he added. The Single Market only applies to goods too.

  • What is Norway vs Norway Plus?

Mr Johnston said: “Norway Plus would be acceptable to the EU, it could be an option everybody agrees on. It would be in the Single Market but not the Customs Union.”

The Norway option is as follows: “You would be in the Single Market but not the Customs Union.

“You can do trade deals normally, but can’t move goods freely.

“You have to accept freedom of movement and pay into the EU budget. You are essentially part of the EU but have no say on laws and regulations.”

Mr Johnson added that the best deal would be to find a middle-ground between Norway and Norway Plus, but accepted this would not be easy.