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14 November 2018, 20:11 | Updated: 14 November 2018, 21:30
Britain's business community should publicly support the Brexit deal agreed by Theresa May’s Cabinet despite its "imperfections", two of her most senior ministers have urged captains of industry.
Sky News has learnt that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, and Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, told dozens of business leaders on a hastily arranged conference call on Wednesday evening that the UK's withdrawal agreement and negotiations over the future relationship with the European Union were essential to avoiding the "chaos" of a no-deal Brexit.
"Nobody is pretending that we have a perfect solution that will give everyone everything they wanted," Mr Hammond said.
"This a compromise deal but one that will hopefully help the country to heal while protecting the economy."
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The draft withdrawal agreement, which will include the ability to extend a transition period beyond the end of 2020 if a future relationship deal is not yet finalised, will provide a stiff test of the Prime Minister's ability to convince parliament that it represents the best available outcome.
The Chancellor told bosses - who included representatives from companies including Airbus, Aviva, Barclays, Grant Thornton and Standard Life Aberdeen - that MPs contemplating opposing the deal should be aware that the EU would be prepared to tear up the proposals and start negotiations from scratch.
"There will be lots of people out there tonight and tomorrow who will want to trash this deal because they want no deal."
He urged business leaders to publicly support the deal, adding: "It would be extremely helpful to us to hear business voices welcoming the trajectory to a smooth and orderly Brexit and warning of the consequences of the alternative."
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His request was backed by a number of senior City figures, some of whom appeared to welcome the content of the Government's deal without having had time to digest its details.
Although Britain's vast financial services sector would be shielded from the impact of a no-deal Brexit under the proposed terms setting out "a close relationship", the existing 'passporting' arrangements for the UK as an EU member state would, as expected, come to an end.
Nevertheless, Sir Adrian Montague, the chairman of Aviva, and Sir Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen, offered to endorse the deal publicly.
"Your employees will look to business to give an evaluation of whether this deal will help or not," Mr Clark said in response.
"Communicating that will be influential to people who don't have the technical expertise to make that judgement themselves."
Significantly, the outline deal received support from Katherine Bennett, the head of Airbus's UK operations, who said the French-based aerospace group would "do all we can to support this going forward".
Airbus has been one of the most vocal inward investors in the UK to warn that the absence of reassurance about its ability to manage its supply chain threatened its future in Britain.
Both Mr Clark and Mr Hammond called Wednesday's developments a "decisive step forward" that put the UK "significantly closer to a Brexit deal".
The Chancellor told business leaders that the desire to preserve British prosperity and jobs meant that the Government "shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good".
And Mr Clark added that bosses should emphasize to MPs that their support for the deal presented by Mrs May should not be regarded as "a boardroom preference" but in the interests of their constituents throughout the country.
Both ministers insisted that the ability to extend the implementation period would avoid the need for British businesses to adjust to "a double-change".
(c) Sky News 2018: Hammond and Clark urge business support for Brexit deal