Busi­ness lead­ers urge against ‘hard’ Brexit

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Bri­tish busi­ness lead­ers yes­ter­day urged the govern­ment to rule out a hard break with the Euro­pean Union, say­ing the un­cer­tainty over the terms of Brexit was im­pact­ing in­vest­ment de­ci­sions. “What we would like is the rul­ing out of the re­ally worst op­tions,” Carolyn Fair­bairn, the di­rec­tor gen­eral of CBI, Bri­tain’s big­gest busi­ness lobby group, told BBC ra­dio.

She out­lined her case in an open let­ter to the govern­ment which was also signed by the heads of the EEF man­u­fac­tur­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, the In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber of Com­merce UK and the techUK tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try body. They warned against a sit­u­a­tion where Bri­tain leaves the EU sin­gle mar­ket without hav­ing a new trade deal in place, mean­ing it would re­vert to trad­ing un­der World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion rules.

“Fall­ing into WTO rules in only 29 months from now, which is the prospec­tive timetable, would mean up to 90 per­cent of goods could po­ten­tially have tar­iffs on them,” Fair­bairn said. She said rul­ing out “some of th­ese re­ally neg­a­tive op­tions would “help to re­as­sure in­vestors that the UK was still a re­ally good place to in­vest”. The let­ter calls for con­tin­ued bar­rier-free ac­cess to the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly for fi­nan­cial ser­vices, and for a tran­si­tional deal to give busi­nesses cer­tainty un­til a new deal with the EU is agreed.

It comes after a tu­mul­tuous week of in­creas­ing mar­ket ner­vous­ness over Brexit, cul­mi­nat­ing in a “flash crash” of the pound to strike a 31-year low against the dol­lar. Bri­tain’s finance min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond down­played the flash crash, blam­ing “tech­ni­cal fac­tors” in the mar­ket. Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who took over fol­low­ing the June 23 vote to leave the EU, has said she in­tends to start the two-year process of with­drawal by March next year.

While giv­ing few de­tails of her strat­egy, she has in­di­cated that she will pri­or­i­tize cut­ting im­mi­gra­tion-a key is­sue in the ref­er­en­dum cam­paign-over ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket. “The govern­ment must set out a clear roadmap for con­sult­ing with firms of all sec­tors and sizes to in­crease con­fi­dence that th­ese com­plex de­ci­sions are taken on the ba­sis of fact and a gen­uine un­der­stand­ing of the eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions,” the busi­ness lead­ers’ let­ter con­cluded. — AFP

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