Unilever boss to ask Theresa May for extended Brexit transition period

Unilever CEO Paul Polman says he will ask UK Prime Minister Theresa May for an extended Brexit transition period.

The boss of Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has joined a growing chorus of business leaders calling on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to allow an extended Brexit transition period.

Ahead of his meeting with May on Thursday (20 July), Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman said he will ask the PM to give businesses more time to adapt to Brexit.

"You can imagine from where I'm sitting, as a European but having my heart in the UK as well, that I have some concrete suggestions of what can be done there. We will be talking about the possibility of a longer transition period," Polman, a Dutch national, said in an analysts call.

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He added that a prolonged transition for Britain's exit from the European Union was "becoming more realistic now".

"There is no doubt that the quicker we can get some of the initial issues out of the way - like financial arrangements, citizens' rights, the issue of Ireland - the quicker we can focus on the trade side and the trade relations side," Polman added.

Company recently rebuffed a $143bn takeover bid from Kraft Heinz. It currently has a dual structure, with headquarters, boards of directors and stock listings in both the UK and Netherlands, something Unilever says is currently under review.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond described a transition arrangement as crucial, while business lobby group - the Confederation of British Industry - has asked for one as well on behalf of its members.

Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the CBI, said: "To help British business remain optimistic and keep uncertainty at bay, the government must work quickly to agree the terms of the [Brexit] transition and future trading arrangements. That's why the CBI has suggested staying in the single market and a customs union until a final deal comes into force."

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