LONDON (AP) – Business leaders from both sides of the English Channel are meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May to urge her to accelerate talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union as uncertainty about future trading relationships threatens jobs and investment.
European business leaders are urging Britain to make concrete proposals on the so-called divorce issues so the negotiations can move forward. The EU has refused to discuss trade until there is agreement on Britain’s financial obligations, citizens’ rights and the Irish border.
Industry groups from Germany, France, Britain and other EU countries have sent representatives to London amid concern that time is running out to ensure more than 550 billion pounds ($719 billion) of trade keeps flowing smoothly after the U.K. leaves the bloc in March 2019. They want a transitional period during which Britain would remain in the European single market and customs union so companies could adjust to the new relationship after Brexit.
“Business is extremely concerned with the slow pace of negotiations,” BusinessEurope, an umbrella organization of business lobbies, said in a recent statement. “Business wants to avoid a cliff edge. Our companies need certainty and time to prepare and adjust to the post-Brexit situation.”
During the meeting, May will outline her hopes for a “bold and deep economic partnership” between Britain and the EU after Brexit.
But tensions within her own government may make it difficult for the prime minister to deliver on her vision. After two ministers resigned from the Cabinet in recent weeks, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove are now under fire for their comments about a British woman imprisoned in Iran.
The pound fell a cent against the dollar, to below $1.31 in midday trading in Londonm on concern about the government’s weakness.
Meanwhile, The European Parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, said Monday that Britain needs to pay the EU at least 60 billion euros ($69.9 billion) to cover the commitments it made as a member of the bloc. If the EU accepts less than that, European taxpayers will have to “make up the difference,” Germany’s Funke newspaper group quoted him as saying.
“Why should the Germans, Italians, Spanish or Dutch pay the Britons’ bill?” he said.
A senior German official said he’s worried about Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
“We should all be prepared for the worst case actually happening in March 2019,” Deputy Finance Minister Thomas Steffen said, according to the dpa news agency dpa. “And then we will see whether anyone in London or anywhere else can produce a different scenario. Today, I don’t see it.”
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this story.