UK firms urge May to seek 3-year Brexit transition

LONDON • British business leaders urged Prime Minister Theresa May (picture) to seek a three-year transitional period after Brexit, warning failure to secure more time would jeopardise “our collective prosperity”.

In a letter organised by the Confederation of British Industry, executives from 120 businesses with more than one million employees again warned of a so-called cliff edge in which Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019 without a new trade deal or enough time for companies to adjust. Signatories included representatives of Centrica plc, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd, Johnson & Johnson and Harrods.

“Our businesses need to make decisions now about investment and employment that will affect economic growth and jobs in the future,” according to the letter. “Continuing uncertainty will adversely affect communities, employees, firms and our nations in the future.”

While May’s Cabinet seems to have struck an agreement to push for a transition, there remains disagreement over how long it should run. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has sided with business  in suggesting three years, while  others such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Trade Secretary Liam Fox are reported to favour a shorter timeframe.

May is set to update her Brexit strategy this Friday in a speech in Florence, Italy, days after Hammond recommended a “status quo” transition. — Bloomberg