British PM to meet business leaders

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Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry conference in east London. AFP

LONDON (Reuters) –Prime Minister Theresa May will come under pressure from business leaders to speed up negotiations with the European Union amid concerns Britain may crash out the world’s biggest trading bloc without a deal.

Ms May has invited 15 business groups from Britain and continental Europe for talks to urge them to back her Brexit strategy and persuade companies not to move overseas.

The meeting comes amid slow progress in negotiations on leaving the EU that has unsettled businesses and drawn warnings that unless a transition is agreed soon, some may begin activating Brexit contingency plans.

Ms May wants to agree with the EU the broad outline of a so-called implementation period of around two years after Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019, during which its access to the EU single market would stay largely unchanged while new arrangements are put in place.

“We’re clear that certainty is one of the things that we want to provide to them which is why we have been clear that we are seeking an implementation period,” her spokesman said yesterday.

International businesses have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks over fears that Britain could leave the EU without a trade deal, a move that would send shockwaves through global markets and fracture some supply chains.

European business association BusinessEurope, which will attend the talks, said last month it was “extremely concerned” with the slow pace of Brexit talks and called on the British government to rapidly come up with proposals that would speed them up.

BusinessEurope is a lobby group that speaks for all-sized enterprises in 34 European countries, including Britain.

The EU told Britain last week to spell out what it will pay Brussels when it leaves the bloc in 2019 or face more delay in talks on future trade ties that are vital for business.

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