Brexit is certain to be top of the agenda when Sir Vince Cable meets Cumbrian businesses on Thursday.
The Liberal Democrat leader is speaking at an event in Kendal at the invitation of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.
He will also take part in a panel question-and-answer session alongside Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron.
Sir Vince, who has described himself as a ‘Brexit saboteur’, is an arch critic of the Government’s Brexit policy and is calling for a second referendum or ‘People’s Vote’.
Rob said: “The Chamber has never taken a stance on Brexit, either for or against, because we know it divides businesses just as it divides the general population.
“But we’re delighted to get a key player from Westminster here at what is a critical moment for the UK. This is a golden opportunity for businesses to put him on the spot and tell him our concerns – whether you agree with him or not.”
He added: “The last time Sir Vince was here in 2017 he thought there was a 50% chance of the Government securing a withdrawal agreement, a 30% chance of a no-deal Brexit and a 20% chance that Brexit wouldn’t happen at all.
“It will be fascinating to hear his take now.”
Nissan’s announcement that it no longer plans to build the X-Trail SUV at Sunderland, citing “continued uncertainty” around Brexit as a factor, has served to focus businesses more closely on the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Rob said: “We know from our ongoing survey of Cumbrian businesses that many will be caught out if there is a no-deal Brexit on March 29th.
“Almost half haven’t started preparations yet because they expected Parliament to ratify a withdrawal agreement, which would mean no change to trading arrangements until the end of 2020.
“But if we leave in March without a deal there will be no transition period and the impacts will be immediate.”
The event at Mintworks is fully booked. Seventy businesses are expected to attend.