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UK Firms React To Election Surprise With Brexit Hopes

While the results of the snap election that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May had called for may boost political uncertainty, reports in The Financial Times said companies are looking at how the results will impact the country’s approach to Brexit.

The publication said Friday (June 9) that companies are hoping a weakened Conservative presence in Parliament could help companies’ cause in calling for a softer Brexit process. Business Secretary Greg Clark is working with business groups, reports said, to discuss the issue as the U.K. preps for Brexit talks with the EU in only a few days.

“Clark was trying to focus on us all coming together so that some of the less business-friendly policies [regarding Brexit] could be dropped,” according to an unnamed source, speaking on the motivation behind Clark’s moves to bring business leaders together and promote the idea of a “softer” Brexit.

“Despite a traditional loyalty to the Conservatives, Mrs. May’s insistence on a hard Brexit — involving a departure from the EU single market and a commitment to abandoning free movement, as well as the repeated mantra that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ — had alienated many business leaders,” the Financial Times wrote.

Reports said the SBI employers’ lobby, the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the EEF manufacturers’ organization were all present at the meeting, as was the Federation of Small Businesses. But those present could not agree on how to approach the upcoming talks.

“Business groups are split,” the source told the publication. “The IoD and the SBI want to push ahead [with the negotiation start dates], because otherwise we will look stupid in Europe.”

But amid this disagreement is hope that the shock election results, which left the Conservative party eight seats short of a majority in Parliament, could mean the U.K. may not pursue such a severe Brexit that could cut off its membership in the EU single market altogether, which concerned business leaders. Reports said there are discussions of a pullback from immigration constraints and plans to facilitate greater government communications.

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