LONDON (Reuters) - Most British businesses and individuals have not prepared for a no-deal Brexit because they do not see it as likely to happen, the government said in a long-awaited analysis published on Tuesday.
But that attitude could heighten the disruption if it does take place, it added.
Lawmakers in London have yet to approve a deal that would smoothe Britain’s divorce with the EU, due on March 29, leaving open the prospect of a disorderly departure.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May offered lawmakers the chance to vote next month in favor of a delay.
“Despite communications from the government, there is little evidence that businesses are preparing in earnest for a no-deal scenario, and evidence indicates that readiness of small and medium-sized enterprises in particular is low,” the government analysis said.
“(The) government judges that the reason for this lack of action is often because a no-deal scenario is not seen as a sufficiently credible outcome to take action or outlay expenditure,” it added.
The short time remaining before March 29 would not allow the government to fully compensate for the effects of a no-deal Brexit, it added.
“Even where it can take unilateral action, the lack of preparation by businesses and individuals is likely to add to the disruption experienced in a no-deal scenario,” the report said.
Economists polled by Reuters put the risk of a no-deal Brexit at one-in-four.
In November, the Bank of England published a worst-case no-deal Brexit scenario that showed Britain risks suffering an even bigger economic hit than during the global financial crisis 10 years ago.
Tuesday’s paper focused on the risks to particular industries, individuals and regions from a no-deal Brexit. Northern Ireland would be hit harder and for longer than the rest of the United Kingdom, it concluded.
Proponents of Brexit dismissed the analysis.
“Good progress being made on WTO Brexit arrangements yet deceitful UK (government) refuses to stop the scaremongering,” Richard Tice, co-chairman of the campaign group Leave Means Leave, tweeted.
Chuka Umunna, a lawmaker from parliament’s newly formed Independent Group that had campaigned for publication of the analysis, said the analysis painted a “disastrous picture”.
Reporting by Andy Bruce and Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison