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Next chief warns against "isolationist" Brexit

Lauretta Roberts
14 October 2016

Next CEO Lord Simon Wolfson has warned the Government against taking an isolationist approach to Brexit, saying the British economy will be "finished" if it does.

Wolfson, who was a prominent voice in the Leave campaign, was speaking to the Press Association at the launch of the £250,000 Wolfson Economics Prize yesterday, of which he is sponsor. He said that the language around "hard" or "soft" Brexit was "unhelpful" and preferred speaking in terms of an "open or closed Brexit".

Britain voted for independence, it didn’t vote for isolation and so we have a choice: are we going to choose to build an open, global-facing economy, or one that’s closed and isolated? If we choose the latter, then our economy is finished. If we choose the former, we stand a chance of flourishing greatly,” he said.

Wolfson has also cautioned against slashing immigration post-Brexit saying it would be damaging for the economy and was one of the first major business leaders to warn against price inflation in light of Britain's decision to leave the EU. He has said prices at the high street retailer may increase by around 5% for Spring 17; currency hedging would mean prices could be held in the interim.

This week the British Retail Consortium (BRC) unveiled a campaign to put pressure on the Government to ensure that any Brexit approach focused on fairness for the consumer and sought to keep costs down.

The BRC has warned that if Britain left the single market and was forced to use World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules clothing and footwear would attract tariffs of 11-16% versus the current zero-rating for all EU imports. It would also make sourcing outside of the UK much more expensive; the import cost of women’s clothing from Bangladesh, for instance, would be 12% higher.

The Government's rhetoric around hard Brexit and the potential for leaving the single market has led this week to a severe slump in the value of sterling. Business leaders and the City have urged the government to pursue a "soft" Brexit course however EU council president Donald Tusk warned yesterday that that Britain faced a stark choice of "hard Brexit or no Brexit".

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