'Public disagreements between Government ministers damaging business confidence'

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Businesses are running out of patience with the "division and disorganisation" at the heart of the Government, a leading business group has warned.

As the opening of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester was dominated by reports of rifts over Brexit, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said public disagreements between ministers were damaging business confidence.

BCC director-general Adam Marshall urged ministers to concentrate on measures to cut the upfront costs of doing business and upgrading skills and infrastructure rather than arguing among themselves.

"Business people across Britain are growing impatient with division and disorganisation at the heart of the party of government, and have made it very clear that they expect competence and coherence from ministers as we move into a critical period for the economy," he said.

"Public disagreements between Cabinet ministers in recent weeks have only served to undermine business confidence, not just on Brexit negotiations, but also on the many issues where firms need to see clear action from government closer to home."

Mr Marshall said businesses also needed a transition period of "at least three years" in which to adapt after Brexit. The Government is currently proposing a transition of around two years - with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisting that must be the absolute maximum.

Mr Marshall said: "On Brexit, businesses are clear that they want a comprehensive transition period, lasting at least three years, and pragmatic discussions on the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU firmed up by the end of 2017.

"They will judge the Government's progress on Brexit by this yardstick - not by public speeches or pronouncements - and will take investment and hiring decisions accordingly."