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Brexit

Business investment across the world, already in the doldrums since the global financial crisis, could decline further as Britain’s vote to leave the European Union creates more risks for companies.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last week sent a series of political shockwaves across the country and continent, starting with the immediate resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and followed by an open revolt over the weekend against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labor Party. Adding to the unfolding political crisis, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to protect Scotland’s place in the EU by holding another referendum on its secession from the U.K., if necessary.

Meanwhile, the reactions from political leaders across the continent exposed gaping differences of opinion about how to respond to the British vote, along with fears that it might prompt similar moves by other member states. As summed up in a recent op-ed piece by George Soros, now that the Brexit scenario has materialized, it makes the disintegration of the EU seem practically irreversible, representing the largest setback to the cause of European political and financial union since World War Two.

Not surprisingly, the political chaos sent global financial markets into a tailspin. The British pound fell as much as 10 percent against the U.S. dollar on Friday to levels last seen in 1985, while more than $2 trillion was wiped off the value of world stocks, the biggest daily loss in history, according to Standard & Poor’s Dow Jones Indices.

Business investment across the world, already in the doldrums since the global financial crisis, could decline further as Britain’s vote to leave the European Union creates more risks for companies.

Investment into the UK, half of which comes from Europe, is likely to hang in the balance. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the British property markets were already experiencing a noticeable cooling off in the run up to last week’s vote, as nervous investors had been sitting on the sidelines. Why buy assets in a country throwing away access to its biggest export market, and riven by discord?

Now a prolonged period of uncertainty, which most commentators expect as political leaders begin to spar over the mechanics of Britain’s exit, will likely create a further pall over short and medium term investment decisions. We plan to keep a close eye on the BankerBay database, which currently includes over a 130 deals from Britain, across various sectors, to monitor the continuing market reaction.

Of course, the financial risks for England extend beyond investment and deal making, and could soon begin to affect employment and the broader economy. Already over the weekend, there were a slew of reports about financial institutions looking to shift employees out of London. Altogether, foreign investment projects created 42,336 British jobs in 2015, according to Ernst & Young. There’s small comfort in the fact that consumer confidence, as measured by research firm GfK, is still far above where it was for most of the past decade – albeit on a negative trend.

The central bank can help contain the damage. Cutting rates might increase consumer confidence and encourage investment, but it could also worsen the effect of a weakening currency. The Bank may have to intervene to prop sterling up. Troublingly, Mark Carney, the head of the Bank of England, advocated staying in the European Union. Over half of the country has publicly disagreed with him.

The biggest danger is that those promoting an EU exit have entered into a contract with voters that they may be unable to honour. The pro-leave side said that following Brexit there would be more control over immigration – which is deliverable – and more prosperity – which probably isn’t, given the unlikelihood UK can persuade its jilted European partners to offer favorable trade deals, which would only serve to encourage other EU nations to consider departing.

Leave was also supposed to offer a return of control to the British public. Yet what the country’s next leaders inherit is a country profoundly split along regional and class lines, heading into a period of prolonged economic uncertainty. It remains to be seen if the British public will soon come to regret the high economic cost of attaining greater political self-control.

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