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Article 50 has been triggered – mutually beneficial or utter cluster**ck?

A letter to European council president Donald Tusk announced that Article 50 has been triggered, starting a two-year countdown until Britain leaves the EU. But while MPs congratulate prime minister Theresa May on her wording, we wondered what UK industry leaders had to say.
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Francesco Cardoletti, founder of PawSquad

“The UK is a net receiver of funding from the EU for R&D. As these funds dry up, the UK will not be able to retain scientific talent. Along the same line, the EIF backs some of the largest UK VC funds and it is not clear whether it will continue backing tech firms. So the fact that Article 50 has been triggered could be seen as the equivalent of jumping off a cliff hoping that your untested parachute will open.

“It is quite the risky business. The government approach to Brexit has been strictly political and it is clear the cost to the UK economy has not been factored in. Regrettably, how we’d like the process to look is irrelevant. We have effectively no bargaining chips and the EU has little to no incentive to offer a good deal. Our best hope is (i) to find a solution for EU/UK foreign residents (ii) retain passporting rights for financial institutions to trade in the EU and (iii) create incentives for business to keep investing in Britain’s economy.”

Paul Drechsler, president of CBI

“This is a pivotal moment in our history and it’s time to be ambitious and confident. It is in the interests of businesses across Europe to work together in absolute determination to make a success of Brexit. Of course, we’ll need to secure some early wins. The first six months are crucial as the UK heads into these challenging and unprecedented negotiations. Most welcome of all would be the immediate guarantee of the right to remain for EU citizens here and UK nationals in Europe.

“Meanwhile, we must maintain some influence over regulations – and discussing new trading arrangements should go hand-in-hand with negotiating our exit. It will be important to deliver on the commitment to include the devolved nations and all regions of the UK in the discussions. Business has a crucial role to play in making the economic case as the negotiations progress so we can be clear about the impact on real people, jobs and communities.”

Benjamin Southworth, founder of Unicorn Hunt

“Article 50 has been triggered and it needs to be treated like any hugely disruptive moment – there are opportunities to rebound, rebuild and reinvest. But Brexit, in my view, is a total and utter cluster**ck. The current conservative administration and it’s parliamentary opposition are unfit for purpose. I read the writing on the wall and am now very happily based in Amsterdam and enjoying the process of ensuring my European citizenship.

“I’ve remained fairly silent on this matter, but it is the worst self imposed, unnecesary political catastrophe in living memory. I suggest you all move to Amsterdam, Lisbon, Paris or Berlin and continue building world class businesses and teams until the UK has learned to grow up and stop being a rock in the sea populated by supermarkets. London may survive through sheer mass and money, but it’s going to be close.”

Nancy Curtin, chief investment officer at Close Brothers Asset Management

“Theresa May has finally announced Article 50 has been triggered. While May faces the tall order of negotiating the best possible result, she does have a surprisingly strong economy at home. The fall in sterling provided a boost to the value of UK large-caps, given the largely international makeup of the FTSE 100. It is also bringing some economic upside, stimulating a much awaited rebalancing of the economy, as exporters and manufacturers benefit from the cheaper pound.

“For the most part, we are yet to see the negative effects many touted as inevitable. However, with inflation on the increase and with the pound reaching a one-month high against the dollar, it’s unclear how long this positive backdrop will last. If companies choose to pass on the higher price of imports to consumers, it may be short-lived. Then there’s the situation in Europe itself. Political uncertainties loom and the outcome of the French election could impact negotiations.”

Image: Shutterstock

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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