FILE - In this Tuesday March 12, 2019 file photo, lorries queue at the entrance to the Port of Dover ferry terminal during delays to the cross Channel ferry, in Dover, England. Britain unveiled a temporary tariff regime on Wednesday, March 13 that could boost the price of imports ranging from cars to butter if the U.K. leaves the European Union without an agreement on future trade, triggering fury among business leaders who weren't consulted on the proposals. The tariffs, which would last for up to 12 months, were published hours before lawmakers are scheduled to vote on whether to prevent the country from leaving the EU without a deal. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP, file)

UK central bank: firms step up 'no-deal' Brexit preparations

March 21, 2019 - 5:54 am

LONDON (AP) — U.K. companies have ratcheted up their preparations for a disorderly "no-deal" Brexit over the past couple of months, the Bank of England said Thursday.

As well as opting to keep the bank's main interest rate on hold at 0.75 percent, the nine-member Monetary Policy Committee voiced concerns about the impact of a series of "cliff-edge" moments over the country's exit from the European Union.

Minutes to the meeting showed that rate-setters were particularly vexed about how "Brexit uncertainties would continue to affect economic activity looking ahead, most notably business investment."

Britain is heading for a "no-deal" Brexit on March 29 if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to win parliamentary support for her withdrawal agreement with the EU. May is meeting EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday in an attempt to get support for a delay to the country's departure date to June 30.

EU leaders have said any short extension would have to be conditional on her Brexit plan getting parliamentary backing. After two heavy rejections in parliament, there are doubts as to whether she will be able to get that. What would happen in that scenario is unclear.

Brexit uncertainty has dogged the British economy for nearly three years and that uncertainty has only become more acute over the past few months.

Firms appear to be responding to the uncertainty as best they can.

According to a special survey conducted by the Bank of England's agents, around 80 percent of companies "judged themselves ready" for a disorderly Brexit in which the country crashes out of the European Union with no deal and with no transition to new trading arrangements with the EU. That's up from around 50 percent in an equivalent survey conducted in January.

However, many of those companies also reported that "there were limits to the degree of readiness that was feasible in the face of the range of possible outcomes in that scenario."

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