LONDON (Reuters) - British voters dealt Prime Minister Theresa May a devastating blow in a snap election she had called to strengthen her hand in Brexit talks, wiping out her parliamentary majority and throwing the country into political turmoil on Friday.
With no clear winner emerging from Thursday’s election, a wounded May signalled she would fight on. Her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said she should quit.
In the aftermath of one of the most sensational nights in British electoral history, politicians and commentators called her decision to hold the election a colossal mistake and derided her performance on the campaign trail.
Below are reactions from British business leaders.
“This is a serious moment for the UK economy. The priority must be for politicians to get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure the markets and protect our resilient economy,” the business lobby group’s Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said in a statement.
“Both sides of the aisle must swallow their pride and work on a cross-party basis on the most important issues. The last thing business leaders need is a parliament in paralysis, and the consequences for British businesses and for the UK as an investment destination would be severe,” said Stephen Martin, director general of the business managers’ organisation.
“Business is coping with extraordinary levels of uncertainty, but this cannot continue. We need adults round the table quickly to chart the way forward,” CEO Jasmine Whitbread said in a statement.
“Business owners need to be reassured that the economy remains a key focus and is not forgotten amid the political infighting that’s surely set to come,” it said.
“In these negotiations with the EU we would hope any new Government recognises the importance of two-way market access, a transitional agreement and the ability of talented people across Europe to get access to the best jobs,” Chairman Catherine McGuinness said in a statement.
“We cannot risk harming London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre or damaging the financial services industry, which supports 2.2 million jobs in the UK and generates 72 billion pounds in tax income.”
“The construction sector is particularly vulnerable to dips in consumer confidence brought about by political uncertainty and therefore it’s crucial that this uncertainty is minimised,” FMB Chief Executive Brian Berry said in a statement.
“For the construction sector, our greatest concern is that the flow of migrant workers might be reduced too quickly and before we are able to put in place a framework for training sufficient UK workers to replace them.”
“The UK housing market has been shaped by political and economic uncertainty for some time. This could be accentuated in the short term, though once the dust settles, it will be broader economic trends that will dictate housing market performance.”
“Our forecasts have already taken account of prevailing political and economic uncertainty and assume two years of extremely low house price growth during Brexit negotiations.”
“The renewable and clean tech industry has been waiting for nearly a year for the release of the Clean Growth Plan and it’s now critical for us that we have a clear commitment and direction, no matter what shade of government.”
“Decisions that will have to be taken over the next five years will shape the UK for generations to come,” CEO Julian David said in a statement. “It is vital that the UK remains an open and dynamic economy in which tech businesses of all sizes can be the engine of inclusive growth.”
“It’s important a government is established as quickly as possible to provide political and economic stability,” said Chief Executive Mike Hawes.
“UK Automotive is vitally important to the UK economy and jobs across the country and now more than ever we need strong engagement by government with the industry, both on the domestic agenda and in European negotiations, to secure future growth and investment in our sector.”
“We cannot stress strongly enough the need for rapid and decisive policy direction to ensure that business can continue to invest for the long term growth and ensure the global competitiveness of the British economy,” the British luxury carmaker’s Chief Executive Andy Palmer said in a statement.
“Jaguar Land Rover looks forward to working with the new government and will support all proposals aimed at free and fair trade and increased global competitiveness.”
“Immediate attention will inevitably be on the implications of this result for securing a Brexit deal that will work in the long-term interests of agriculture and the wider economy. We remain confident that the right deal can be done,” President Ross Murray said in a statement.
“It is anticipated that transactions will continue to fall in prime central London whilst investors assimilate the new situation, particularly at the luxury end and in the new build sector, already battered through the introduction of new residential taxes,” it said.
“For the domestic housing market, outside prime central London, the recent evidence of a downturn by most data analysts, due to concerns over a weakening UK economic position and rising inflation, is unlikely to be reversed in light of the current events.”
WILLIAM HILL (WMH.L):
“We are monitoring developments following the election result. As and when the Department for Culture, Media & Sport team re-engage with the Triennial process, we will continue to work with both the department and ministers as appropriate.
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and UK team in Bengaluru; editing by Kate Holton