U.K. Business Secretary Seeks to Reassure Firms Amid Brexit Fallout

U.K. Business Secretary Sajid Javid appears on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. ENLARGE
U.K. Business Secretary Sajid Javid appears on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

LONDON—U.K. Business Secretary Sajid Javid said he will convene a special meeting of two dozen senior figures from across the economy this week as he seeks to reassure British businesses scrambling to assess the ramifications of last week’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.

In a letter in London’s Sunday Times, Mr. Javid described Britain’s economy as having “strong foundations,” saying recent successes have positioned the country to better withstand market turbulence. He encouraged businesses “to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit brings.”

In the wake of the vote, businesses big and small have scrambled to assess how Britain’s departure from the EU might affect them—from trade and investment to staffing. Adding to the strain, executives face a potentially drawn-out political handover from Prime Minister David Cameron to a successor, who will then start negotiations with Brussels over a withdrawal. Those talks could last as long as two years after they begin.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry, a trade group, said Sunday the organization is beginning a detailed consultation process with its members. “Businesses want to explore how we can retain as much access to the single market as possible, access to skills, and to the 53 EU trade deals,” the spokesman said.

Separately, the British Chamber of Commerce said market stability and political clarity were the main things businesses need right now and that the government must deliver a detailed plan on how it plans to support the economy.

“The health of the economy must be the number one priority—not the Westminster political postmortem,” said BCC Acting Director General Adam Marshall. “Firms across the U.K. want an immediate and unambiguous statement from the prime minister on next steps, along with a clear timeline for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.”

Mr. Javid was a supporter of remaining in the EU, aligned publicly in Britain’s split Conservative Party cabinet with Mr. Cameron.

But on Sunday, after the vote, he called on business to look for opportunities in the break, mirroring some of the business rationale used by the “Leave” camp.

“For all the downsides of leaving, those opportunities really do exist,” he wrote. “Freed from Brussels’ more bureaucratic tendencies we will be able to tackle the excessive red tape that can choke small businesses.” Mr. Javid said Britain will now be able to make its tax system even more competitive, allowing local businesses to grow and attracting investment from overseas.

“Whether you voted in or out, whether you run a kitchen-table startup or a multinational, if you’re involved in British business you should be involved in shaping its future,” he wrote.

Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at [email protected]


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