Government slammed for forcing City firms to plan for Brexit "in the dark" as financial services paper pushed back again

Catherine Neilan
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The government has been slammed for forcing firms to make post-Brexit plans "in the dark" as it pushes back publication of a financial services position paper yet again.

The Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) is expected to publish just one position paper this week, setting out its stance on science and innovation after Brexit. Reports suggest it could include an offer to pay £1bn-a-year to stay in EU science programmes.

Three papers are tentatively scheduled for next week, covering internal security, external security and fair and open trade. A paper on the financial services - which had been tipped to arrive mid-August - is expected thereafter. But a government source told City A.M. it was unlikely to be published ahead of the break for conference season, which begins on 15 September.

City of London Corporation policy chairman Catherine McGuinness said:“Uncertainty is the number one issue for City firms at the moment. Other sectors have been helped in recent weeks with position papers in their own specific areas and financial services is looking to see one soon.

"However, the financial sector seems to have been put near the bottom of the list when publishing these. Firms are refining their contingency plans but they are having to navigate in the dark.

"The sector is a major contributor to the national economy, involving jobs and services throughout the UK and beyond. It needs to know the government’s plans for the future.”

Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, agreed: “Businesses are anxiously awaiting the government’s proposals for how services should be covered in our future trade relations with the EU, particularly if the UK is no longer a member of the single market on Brexit Day in 2019.

"Regulatory and non-tariff barriers are of particular relevance to the services sectors, and we hope this will cover not only the long term but crucially, how these would be dealt with during a transitional period.”

However, the news that the Prime Minister is "ready to intensify" Brexit negotiations as the October deadline looms was welcomed.

“We are ready to intensify negotiations. Nothing has been formally agreed, but that is something that we can discuss,” a Number 10 spokeswoman told reporters yesterday (Monday). “Typically in negotiations as time goes on you see the pace pick up.”

The spokeswoman was reponding to reports that Dexeu is now looking to deploy a team in Brussels semi-permanently in order to allow "continuous" meetings to take place.

BCC director Adam Marshall said: "For businesses all around the country the sooner we can get onto discussing the future trade relationship between the UK and EU, and with it any transition, the better.

"Trying to find a way to break the deadlock is important to businesses" he added. "Government needs to demonstrate there is momentum in the talks."

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