May and Hammond to meet European bosses for Brexit talks
7 March 2018, 10:36
The Prime Minister and Chancellor have called in executives from some of Europe's biggest corporate employers in the UK for talks about the post-Brexit trade relationship with the EU.
Sky News has learnt that bosses from companies including Bank of Ireland, BMW, Bosch and Kingfisher, the owner of B&Q;, have been invited to meet Theresa May and Philip Hammond in Downing Street on Thursday.
Sources said the meeting would cover the Government's latest planning for an implementation period after the UK leaves the European Union in April next year, as well as the vision set out by Mrs May last week for an wide-ranging economic partnership.
In total, the executives due to attend the meeting run companies employing more than 70,000 people in the UK.
Abellio, the transport company, the electrical goods manufacturer Bosch, Maersk, the Danish shipping and logistics group and Wizz Air, the Central and Eastern Europe-focused carrier, have also been invited to the meeting.
A person familiar with the agenda said that Mr Hammond would lead a discussion on the implementation period, while Mrs May will focus on the future trade relationship.
Kingfisher, the FTSE 100 retailer, employs about 34,000 people in the UK, but also has a big presence in EU countries including France and Spain, while BMW has a 25,000-strong UK workforce including its dealer network.
BMW has said that it will build its new electric Mini at its plant in Oxford, although a final go-ahead is likely to be subject to clarity about the final terms of a trade deal.
Bank of Ireland, Bosch and Abellio also employ several thousand people each in Britain.
While the PM and Chancellor publicly insist that negotiations are progressing well, the talks will take place against a backdrop of continued uncertainty in critical areas including customs arrangements and the scope of a free trade deal.
In recent days, major manufacturers including Airbus and Vauxhall have signalled growing unease about the lack of visibility over future trade arrangements.
On Wednesday, Mr Hammond will set out further details of the UK's efforts to include financial services in a new free trade agreement between the UK and EU.
"I am clear not only that it is possible to include Financial Services within a trade deal but that it is very much in our mutual interest to do so," he is expected to say.
However, the Financial Times reported that both Donald Tusk, the European Council President, and the French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, would pour cold water on the Chancellor's ambitions.
None of the companies invited to Thursday's meeting who were contacted by Sky News would comment.
(c) Sky News 2018: May and Hammond to meet European bosses for Brexit talks