The Institute of Directors has said businesses want specifics and are ‘less interested in the rhetoric’ following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Responding to Mr Johnson’s 'Unleashing Britain's Potential', which set out priorities for Brexit negotiations with the EU, director of the IoD, Jonathan Geldart, urged the Government to quickly follow up its ‘high-level position’ with ‘specific objectives’.

During the speech - which took place at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich- the Prime Minister stressed his commitment to free trade and signal his determination to secure an arrangement with Brussels along the lines of that agreed between the European Union and Canada.

However, rifts between the UK and EU quickly emerged when the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier laid out a draft mandate calling for ‘reciprocal access’ for fishing vessels if a free trade agreement is to be signed.

Mr Johnson later said he would be willing to walk away from the year-long talks if the EU did not fall into line and agree to the UK's demands.

He said: “There is no need for a free trade agreement to involve accepting EU rules on competition policies, subsidies, social protection, the environment or anything similar, any more than the EU should be obliged to accept UK rules.”

In response, Mr Geldart said: “Businesses are less interested in the rhetoric that will inevitably surround the negotiations than they are with the practical implications of the Government’s approach.

“The UK can’t just stick to red lines, it needs to set out positive, practical steps to what it wants.”

Mr Geldart also said the speech suggested a ‘swing away from prioritising close trade ties with the EU’.

He added: “The question for many businesses now is should they be planning to have no trade deal in place for the end of the year?

“The Government must set out how it intends to help smaller firms deal with changes that may come, and some form of adjustment period is crucial.”

Chair of the Cumbria branch of the IoD said he believed businesses needed ‘stand up and stride forward’ during what promises to be a stormy negotiation – intensified further by the Brexit transition date of December 31.

“The Government will not do this for us – we need to educate our leaders, network around the globe and only then will we take the opportunities that Brexit will offer,” he said.

“If we don’t then all the negatives around Brexit will drag our business’s down. It is simple it is our choice, let’s do this Cumbria.”

Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned that businesses could be ‘caught in the crossfire of a tough, public negotiation’.

Its president John Allan said business optimism was returning but warned that talk of a ‘bare bones’ trade deal could ‘pause’ investment after Mr Barnier suggested it would not be possible to complete the whole deal within 11 months.

The first salvo since Britain left the EU last week and the resulting threat of a a potential no-deal Brexit, saw the pound drop more than 1 per cent against the dollar.