Union and business leaders in joint Brexit plea to Prime Minister Theresa May

Director-general of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn has warned that jobs are under threat Credit: John Stillwell/PA

Union and business leaders have issued a joint plea to the Prime Minister urging her to “change course” in her approach to Brexit.

Ahead of today’s European summit, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn wrote a joint letter to Theresa May requesting an urgent meeting to discuss their concerns.

The letter reads: “Together we represent millions of workers and tens of thousands of businesses. It is on their behalf that we are writing to you to ask you to change your Brexit approach.

“Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar. Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.”

It continues: “We ask you to take three steps to protect the jobs, rights and livelihoods of ordinary working people.

“First, avoiding no deal is paramount. Businesses and employees alike need to see their Government clearly acknowledge the reckless damage no deal would cause and recommit itself to avoiding this outcome.

“Second, securing an extension has become essential. Eighty-eight per cent of CBI members and a majority in Parliament agree this is better than no deal. But at the same time an extension must genuinely allow a way forwards, and be long enough for a deal to be agreed.

“Third, ‘the current deal or no deal’ must not be the only choice. A Plan B must be found – one that protects workers, the economy and an open Irish border, commands a parliamentary majority, and is negotiable with the EU.

“A new approach is needed to secure this – whether through indicative votes or another mechanism for compromise.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “This is a significant move by the biggest voices for business and workers in our country. The Prime Minister cannot ignore the clear advice and demands of these groups which represent millions of working people and employers across Britain.

“Theresa May’s damaging deal has been comprehensively rejected by parliament with two record breaking defeats, and it’s clear that business and workers also reject it.

“There can be no false choice between May’s bad deal and a catastrophic no deal situation. The Prime Minister must move her red lines and act in the national interest in finding a compromise now. She cannot continue on this failed path.”