Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, delivers a statement outside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

U.K. Must Get On With Brexit Plans, Businesses Said to Tell May

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. businesses told Prime Minister Theresa May to get on with taking key Brexit decisions as companies start putting their contingency plans in place, according to a person at a meeting at her London office on Monday.

May gathered leaders of companies ranging from aerospace to retail along with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Brexit Secretary David Davis for talks at 10 Downing Street. She holds the meetings regularly to discuss Brexit, investment and the government’s industrial strategy.

According to one of the attendees, the meeting was positive and went on longer than scheduled. But business leaders emphasized their need for clarity and urged her to get on with the important decisions. They also discussed immigration and the need to keep Britain open to global talent, the person said.

With less than 10 months to go until Britain is due to leave the bloc, the government has yet to set out what kind of commercial and customs relationship it will seek from its biggest trading partner after Brexit. Talks, which are due to restart in Brussels on Tuesday, are stalled on the thorniest divorce issues and have yet to move in any detail to what life after the split will look like for businesses -- or the foreigners they employ.

Transition, Deadlines

A transition period has been agreed, which would give companies two more years to adjust after exit day, but that will only happen if an overall deal is signed. Both sides are hoping to do that later this year.

As well as negotiating with the EU, May has had to try to contain divisions in her Conservative Party over Brexit and faces a showdown next Tuesday when a key piece of legislation returns to the House of Commons. Lawmakers will be asked to vote on 15 amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that were added by the House of Lords, bringing her side’s competing factions into open conflict.

The U.K. has promised to set out its plans for the future relationship in a so-called white paper, or policy document, this month. A spokesperson for May said she reminded business leaders at the meeting of that plan -- saying the document would be published "shortly" -- and they welcomed the approach.

The blueprint had been expected before the June 28 EU summit, but may now be delayed until later in the summer.

May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters Monday there’s no timetable for the white paper to be published, and played down the need to reach a deal on the Irish border at the June summit. “We are working towards agreement in October and the June council is a staging post towards that,” he said.

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