City bosses torn over Article 50 decision

Hayley Kirton
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Could the decision be both good and bad for business? (Source: Getty)

Senior City figures are struggling with mixed emotions following last week's Article 50 decision.

Business leaders feel the High Court ruling, which decided parliament must be consulted before Prime Minister Theresa May can trigger Article 50, will generate yet more uncertainty in the wake of June's referendum result. However, there is also a sense of relief that MPs could now have the opportunity to debate and influence the manner of the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and chief executive of WPP, described the ruling as "in one respect a welcome ‘Brexit check’, parliamentary scrutiny also means delay, and adds to the climate of uncertainty that is causing businesses to postpone or cancel investment decisions".

Read more: Theresa May is promising Brexit "in full"

Better Capital founder Jon Moulton added the case's outcome "cannot be viewed positively from the viewpoint of business. Uncertainty results in a lack of decisions to invest. There will be an economic impact which will worsen until there is a resolution."

Another senior City veteran told City A.M., following the ruling, businesses are split between "two competing issues", and, while the decision could improve the chance of having a "sensible, soft Brexit", business also does "not want too much uncertainty and delay".

The source added the recent attacks on the judiciary were "unfortunate", as one key factor behind the strength of the City of London is the "rule of law and independence of law".

Read more: Liz Truss responds to calls for condemnation of media attacks on judiciary

Iain Anderson, executive chairman at City public affairs giant Cicero Group, added that, even though the decision potentially threw a spanner in the works for the Brexit timetable, the case may "create much more of an opportunity" for there to be an open debate about the government's thinking, particularly on issues such as the UK's relationship with the Single Market.

Government has vowed to appeal last week's decision and the case could be in the Supreme Court next month.

There has also been talk that the case outcome could compel an early general election if May is unable to pass a Brexit bill through parliament.

Read more: Ministers are planning for an early election after the Article 50 verdict

"Things could turn quite savage if the Leave voters see their politicians – let alone the unelected elite of the House of Lords – using this ruling to frustrate the exit process," Moulton said.

"If I were Prime Minister, I think I would be putting up a simple bill to parliament giving her the position she needs – with a general election to follow if the vote goes the wrong way for her. She cannot rely on the appeal."

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