A London finance leader and former supporter of the campaign to keep the United Kingdom within the European Union (EU) urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to “get cracking” with the separation from the bloc, the Evening Standard reported Tuesday.
“To be blunt with you, the longer the uncertainty goes on, the worse it is for business,” John Nelson, chairman of the Council of Lloyd’s insurance industry group told the paper during a trip to India this week, where he took part in a delegation accompanying May.
Less than a week earlier, Britain’s High Court ruled that the country’s Parliament must approve the decision to leave the EU, barring May from making a swift decision unilaterally. The court’s decision stands to delay the separation, also known as “Brexit,” past May’s target period of March 2017, though it doesn’t necessarily prevent the country from discarding its membership. In a June vote, the "leave" campaign beat out the "remain" advocates in a 52 percent to 48 percent vote.
The ruling gave pound sterling traders some relief last week, as the British currency rose and then leveled out in value, at around $1.2507. Still, despite the dollar being plagued by the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. presidential election Tuesday, the pound zigzagged and fell to a low of $1.2363 around the time Nelson’s comments gained media traction. The pound's dollar exchange rate remained at its three-decade low.
About a month earlier, May pledged to a conservative conference that she would begin negotiating the U.K.’s separation from the EU using Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which allows member states to negotiate their way out of the bloc, as early as March. She promised at the meeting to maintain U.K. access to the trading benefits of the European “single market” and to simultaneously curtail immigration, causing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to fire back days later that Britain can’t have its cake and eat it too.
“If we don’t say that full access to the single market is linked to full acceptance of freedom of movement, then everyone in Europe will start doing what they want,” Merkel said at a conference for a German industrial group.
But if Nelson has his way, the U.K. will seek to defy Merkel by retaining some of the biggest perks of EU membership following negotiations.
“We are very, very keen to have passporting rights and single market access,” he told the Standard, speaking on behalf of London’s business and finance community. “I detect that ministers are getting that very strongly now.”