Dominic Raab has told John Lewis to “take responsibility” and not blame Brexit for its financial problems.
This morning the department store revealed its half-year profits crashed 98.8 percent.
Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said uncertainty “in part due to ongoing Brexit negotiations” had contributed to the problem.
But speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Raab hit back at the company.
“I think it’s probably rather easy at this moment in time for any business that isn’t doing rather well to point to Brexit,” the Brexit Secretary said.
“It’s rather easy for a business to blame Brexit and the politicians rather than take responsibility for their own situation.”
He added: “I don’t doubt that some of the uncertainty around these negotiations will have an impact on business, that’s why we are putting all our energy into getting the good deal we want with our EU friends and partners.”
The John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, said it expects profits in the full 2018/19 financial year to be “substantially lower”.
Mayfield said today: “With the level of uncertainty facing consumers and the economy, in part due to ongoing Brexit negotiations, forecasting is particularly difficult but we continue to expect full-year profits to be substantially lower than last year for the partnership as a whole.”
Raab also said the UK will not pay its £39bn “divorce bill” to Brussels if it is refused a Brexit deal.
The warning to the EU came after open talk at a meeting of Tory backbenchers in the hardline Brexit European Research Group (ERG) of a bid to topple Theresa May unless she abandoned the Chequers strategy.