346 Days to Go

Today in Brexit: While businesses generally oppose Brexit, they don’t want to know about a second referendum. 

The plot to reverse Brexit is missing a key ally: U.K. business. Companies have been among the most outspoken critics of the split from the European Union, and have much to lose from a divorce gone wrong. But as a group of lawmakers tries to engineer a second referendum, business leaders are recoiling.

Worse than Brexit is prolonged uncertainty, Suzi Ring reports.

“Business likes certainty and I can’t see how discussion of a second referendum helps create that certainty when the negotiations are not even concluded,” says Miles Celic, chief executive officer of TheCityUK, the finance industry’s lobby group.

Businesses are uninterested in politics. They want commercial predictability.

Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The campaign for a popular vote on the final divorce deal that Prime Minister Theresa May brings back from Brussels later this year is gaining a bit of traction. Two recent polls have indicated there may be popular support for a vote on the terms of Brexit. The Institute for Government think tank sees a mechanism for Parliament to engineer another plebiscite later this year.

It’s worth remembering that there’s no evidence a second referendum would produce a different result and it’s far from clear there’s a majority in Parliament to send weary voters back to the ballot box. There would be much debate on the question posed, and there would probably have to be some kind of extension to the Brexit day deadline. Pound investors also reckon sterling – now at post-referendum highs – would take a hit.

“Businesses are uninterested in politics. They want commercial predictability,” said Paul Hardy, Brexit director at law firm DLA Piper. “Those who have spent a lot of money on it are ready to deal with it.”

Today’s Must-Reads

Office for National Statistics

Brexit in Brief

Lords Leading | Labour Lords expect to win a vote on Wednesday on keeping the U.K. in a customs union. While the vote will pile more pressure on Theresa May, it’s not clear how the government will respond to a defeat. One official said the government would likely oppose the amendment if it was sent back to the House of Commons. But another said the government would only be required to explain what it has done to try to stay in a customs union – something it could easily do without changing its policy. We wrote last week about how the customs union could be the next red line that May rubs out.

On the Markets | The pound rose to its strongest against the dollar since the referendum, trading at $1.4341 early on Tuesday. The prospect of the Lords voting in favor of a customs union helped drive sterling higher.

High-Tech Border | A London-based facial-recognition startup, Iproov, has been in contact with the U.K. government about how it can help solve the problem of the Irish border, Jeremy Kahn reports. The U.K. government has long said that technology could be part of the solution to one of the thorniest issues of Brexit.

Coming Up | More talks in Brussels on Tuesday on the pending divorce issues. On Wednesday there’s a session on the Irish border and then at last the first contact over the future relationship. Chancellor Philip Hammond takes questions in Parliament at 11:30 a.m. May will face another debate on Syria and a non-binding vote.

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