UK bosses want clarity on Brexit

After the maelstrom of UK prime minister Theresa May’s election crisis and a struggle in government over the shape of Brexit, business chiefs have a request for the UK: Give clarity on how the EU divorce might look.

Since Ms May nearly lost her job in a botched June 8 election gamble, ministers have sought to strike a more inclusive tone, even inviting in some chief executives to a 17th century manor house to discuss Brexit over a buffet lunch.

However, as the March 2019 exit date approaches, six major British business chiefs told Reuters they still do not have the answers about post- Brexit immigration, trade and regulation they need to plan and make coherent investment decisions.

“I see through a glass darkly. It’s hard to discern exactly what is happening at the moment,” said Rupert Soames, CEO of British outsourcing group Serco.

Serco was finding it harder to attract truck drivers in its waste collection business in the UK because of a lack of clarity about Brexit, he said.

“There has been a bit of a thaw in Number 10, but nothing dramatic,” said a FTSE 100 company senior executive who asked not to be named.

“Before the election, they weren’t listening. Now, they’re trying to listen, but they have very little of substance to say on the topic that matters far more than any other.”

Some business chiefs also said they were disorientated by a public battle at the heart of government over the shape of the divorce.

There were also other signs of distress.

Housebuilders Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Development fell 2.8% to 3% after data showed house prices grew at their weakest pace in over four years last month.

“Given Brexit uncertainties, the housing market is clearly a key risk for the UK economy,” said Davy analysts.

A year after the UK voted for Brexit, there is still little sign its exporters have gained much from the fall in the value of the pound, as the UK goods trade deficit jumped to a nine-month high of £12.7bn (€14bn).

Reuters

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