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Leon Kaye headshot

UK Businesses Livid After Prime Minister Asks for Brexit Support

By Leon Kaye

It turns out the U.S. government is not alone when it comes to fraying its relationship with the business community. Across the pond, a leaked letter has caused more angst within the leadership of many corporate C-suites.

According to Sky News, a leaked memo distributed to the companies comprising Financial Times Stock Index (FTSE 100) and other businesses revealed 10 Downing Street is urging business leaders to offer Theresa May’s government public support during the Brexit negotiations.

“We believe this is a good time for employers to work with government and parliament to make a success of Brexit and secure a bright future for our country,” said the letter.

According to various news sources including Reuters, the letter has provoked a range of reactions, from the proverbial eye-roll to exasperation. “This certainly raised a few eyebrows,“ one FTSE 100 executive explained to Reuters’ Kate Holton and Andrew MacAskill. ”We are very reluctant to be dragged into politics at the best of times. Right now we don’t want to endorse a plan that is going to do enormous damage to our industry.”

According to PwC, Outlook, the UK’s economic growth is expected to slow to approximately 1.2 percent in 2017 due to business investment lagging over concerns of political and economic uncertainty continuing after last summer’s Brexit vote. The ongoing stall in business investment, say PwC’s analysts, is driven by the general uncertainty about the country’s long-term trading relationships with EU members.

Hence the irritation with one section of the letter in particular: "As business leaders, we have a duty to our shareholders and employees to continue to grow our businesses and ensure that they remain strong.”

The letter’s leak comes as the relationship between May’s government and business leaders is already under further strain over another leaked document that suggested plans for a more aggressive crackdown on European migrant workers. In contrast, many UK businesses are aligned with recent research concluding that immigration to London and the rest of Britain offers an overall boost to the country’s economy.

Between the immigration controversy and what many corporate executives as the May government’s bungled efforts at the Brexit negotiating table, it is unlikely that any draft of this leaked letter will become public. According to the Guardian, business leaders were instructed to sign and return the letter today so that it could be published in newspapers across the UK on Sunday.

“I’d be very surprised if that letter sees the light of day now,” one business leader told the Independent. That newspaper’s source also claimed that his counterparts in sectors such as energy, manufacturing, banking and financial services firms had all refused to ink their names on the letter.

The flak over the leaked letter is another embarrassing setback for May and her government, the popularity of which has tanked since the snap national elections May called earlier this summer. Her approval ratings are the lowest ever recorded for any prime minister in a month after an election; and as much as two-thirds of the British public also disapproves how her Brexit team is handling those negotiations. Meanwhile, demand in Britain for just about everything from automobiles to services to clean energy development is on the decline.

Image credit: Number 10/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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