David Thomas, the head of the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE), said fears raised by businesses in the EU have been ignored by some member states who would rather “sit back” and allow the European Commission to dictate the sequencing of the negotiations.
With frustrations growing about the slow pace of Brexit negotiations and the huge issues which remain unsettled, uncertainty is threatening the ties between European and British business.
Mr Thomas told the Telegraph: “The individual governments have managed to be a bit like the three monkeys – I see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil – because they are completely off-sided by the mandate and the process the Commission is doing.
“They [European businesses] are frustrated with their home governments… those governments have pretty much taken a back seat, not got engaged in the Brexit process and allowed it to stay as a purely political issue.
“But the non-political implications are so massive they need to be looked at. They are hoping that in the October summit, or another summit, that the mandate is changed or modified.”
Mr Thomas also said the influence of the EU’s powerhouses, including France and Germany, may be stopping some of the smaller member states from speaking out about their frustrations with the progress of Brexit talks.
He said: “Everybody is sitting back because the Commission has told each country, we’re handling this, we’ve have our mandate, let us get on with it.
“There’s almost a fear on an individual country’s perspective not to get involved. Because an individual country – unless it is France of Germany – does not really have too much sway inside the Commission.”
Earlier this week, a report by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) revealed there was unanimous support for starting trade talks immediately from more than 1,000 firms across the continent.
During workshops held by COBCOE, European companies also complained of a “lack of engagement” from both their own governments and EU negotiators and a copy of the report has been issued to the finance minister and prime minister of every member state.
The study warns: “There is a fear among business leaders that the importance of the economy is being overlooked by those leading the negotiations, demonstrated by the perceived lack of engagement on the part of the Commission and European governments.
“They are concerned that the mandate afforded to the negotiators by the Council.
“They encourage the parties to begin talks on economic matters as soon as possible, whether by achieving quick agreement on preliminary issues or by recognising the need to move in parallel.”
Mr Thomas added: “The aim of this report was to bring this to public attention across all of Europe, especially the political public, if you wish.
“We hope after having read the report, they will not be able to say, we didn’t realise the risk our economy is running if this isn’t run properly.”