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Europe: Businesses demand urgent Brexit deal after meeting UK's May

[LONDON] European business leaders said on Thursday that British Prime Minister Theresa May must find a Brexit deal with the European Union as quickly as possible because uncertainty is damaging investment and undermining growth.

The European Round Table of Industrialists met Mrs May in her London office earlier as she looks to convince the business community that Britain remains a good place for them to invest - even as stalled Brexit talks mean the future terms of cross border trade are highly uncertain.

"We are concerned that time is tight to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would damage both the UK and the EU27 economies," the group said in an emailed statement afterwards.

"An agreement on the UK's orderly withdrawal must urgently be found as uncertainty results in less investment and undermines growth and prosperity," it added.

The round table (ERT) represents 55 multinational companies. Attendees included the chairmen of AstraZeneca, Rolls-Royce and Telefonica.

Britain is due to leave the EU in five months' time but has yet to seal the terms of a withdrawal agreement - which will involve a status quo transition lasting nearly two years - or reach a deal on what kind of trade relationship it will have with the bloc after that.

In a separate statement, Mrs May's office said she had told businesses she remained confident about the prospects of agreeing an exit deal.

"The Prime Minister spoke about the good progress in negotiations, with 95 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement complete and with agreement on the structure and scope of the Future Framework. She reiterated that she was confident a deal would be reached," her office's statement said.

Mrs May's office said she told the executives she valued their contribution to the British economy, and set out the details of her plan for a future economic partnership with Europe.

That plan, known as the Chequers agreement, is at the heart of disagreement within her own party and in Brussels, and it is still unclear whether it will form the basis of Britain's future relationship with the EU.

"The Prime Minister heard from the ERT about their priorities and all agreed that it was in everyone's interests to secure a good deal for both sides and provide clarity for businesses and employees in the UK and across Europe," the statement said.


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