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Business leaders urge both sides to speed up Brexit negotiations

EU and UK flags fly above the EU Commission offices in Westminster, London. David Cameron is making final efforts to bolster support for his proposed European Union reforms before a crunch summit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 17 2016. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Business leaders have voiced concern about the slow pace of Brexit negotiations, warning it could affect a constructive exit from the EU.

BusinessEurope, an umbrella group representing business federations across Europe, said companies needed certainty and time to prepare for future arrangements.

A statement said: "The slow pace of the negotiations is of special concern to business as it might jeopardise an orderly and constructive exit of the UK from the EU."

Meanwhile, more than 100 companies, with more than one million workers in the UK and EU, have signed a letter to Brexit negotiators David Davis and Michel Barnier, stressing the importance of making progress on a transition deal.

The letter said: "Our businesses need to make decisions now about investment and employment that will affect economic growth and jobs in the future."

"Continuing uncertainty will adversely affect communities, employees, firms and our nations in the future. Businesses across the EU and UK are clear: being able to plan for a transition of up to three years that avoids a cliff edge is critical for our collective prosperity."

"We are therefore writing to urge both sides to be pragmatic and determined to move to the next stage of the negotiations."

"Until transitional arrangements can be agreed and trade discussed the risk of 'no deal' remains real and has to be planned for, with inevitable consequences for jobs and growth on both sides."

A UK Government spokesman said: "We believe that the negotiations on the future partnership should begin as soon as possible. Doing so is in the interests of businesses both in the UK and the EU who rightly want certainty about the future."

"In recent weeks we have published a raft of papers setting out our position on withdrawal issues and our future partnership, with the view to progressing the current negotiations as swiftly as possible."

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: "Businesses across the country need certainty and stability but the glacial pace of Brexit negotiations is providing anything but."

"There is now a real danger that the October deadline to move on to the main focus of negotiations will be missed, which will only increase uncertainty and the risk of no deal."

"Labour's commitment to a limited transitional period on the same basic terms - including within the single market and a customs union with the EU - would benefit British businesses and workers. The sooner the Government comes to accept this, the better."

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