Brexit is hitting economy, says John Lewis boss in scathing attack

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The boss of high street giant John Lewis today launched a stinging attack on the Government and MPs for leaving business to struggle in “uncertainty” over Brexit.

Sir Charlie Mayfield warned: “We should be under no illusions. Brexit is having an effect on the economy, no question.”

Theresa May will strike a positive tone when she attempts to kickstart political talks between Britain and the EU in a speech next week, sources have told the Evening Standard.

She will stress her desire for a “positive partnership” after Brexit including close co-operation on security, while sticking closely to the terms set out in her landmark Lancaster House speech in January.

Her appeal, in a speech in Florence, is intended to persuade European leaders that both sides have more to gain by accelerating talks rather than the EU’s current priority of haggling over a cash withdrawal payment.

Sir Charlie vented the frustration of business leaders about the continuing confusion over Britain’s future relations. He urged: “There needs to be a serious parliamentary debate to figure out what kind of Brexit we’re going to have in the best interests of the country and the economy.”

Last night, former Bank of England governor Mervyn King also rounded on ministers over their Brexit negotiating tactics.

Lord King said: “I don’t think that the negotiations are going in the way that we might hope.”

He told BBC Newsnight the Government was making a mistake by not setting out “a fallback position” to show how it would trade if talks on a Brexit deal fall through.

“If you’re going to enter a negotiation, it’s actually very important to make sure that the other side of the table knows that you have a fallback position. We’ve been waiting for over a year now and I must say that I’m not terribly impressed by how much of that fallback position has actually been stated, been implemented, and whether it’s actually being managed properly within the civil service and the government.”

Inventor Sir James Dyson, who backed Leave, said not enough progress had been made on Brexit talks. But he told the BBC’s Today programme that he believes “uncertainty is an opportunity” and went on: “I suspect that we will have to leave without a deal and we will trade under WTO [World Trade Organisation] regulations, which frankly, are going to hurt the Europeans more than the British.”

Philip Hammond expressed optimism that there will be a bespoke deal for the City in a speech last night. The Chancellor said Brussels will not be allowed to use Brexit to introduce “protectionist” measures targeting London’s financial sector.

“Let me be clear, we will not accept protectionist agendas, disguised as arguments about financial stability,” he told the UK Finance annual dinner.

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