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More than 30 of London business chiefs today warned Boris Johnson that a return to growth next year would be derailed if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a trade deal.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister they said it was “critical” to give firms clarity about the future relationship with the EU’s mammoth market of 450 million consumers.

“As the capital’s biggest employers, we are relieved that you have committed to going the extra mile in talks with the European Union,” they said.

“It is critical now to push this through to a conclusion to avoid an unnecessarily difficult start to 2021 for the sake of citizens on both sides of the Channel, who are reeling from the personal and economic impacts of Covid-19.”

The letter is signed by some of London’s senior business names including Sir George Iacobescu, executive chairman of Canary Wharf Group, Evelyn Bourke, group CEO of Bupa, James Raynor, CEO of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland and Paul Weston of Prologis.  It was organised by Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of lobby group London First.

Hopes for a deal rose today after Ursula von der Leyen said there is a “path to an agreement now”.

The business leaders went on: “For the UK to rapidly return to growth, we need to keep our retailers, hauliers and manufacturers moving during the early months of the new year so that we do not face a further economic set back just as the vaccine starts to offer a route out of the tunnel.”

The UK’s current trading arrangements with the EU expire at the end of the month, meaning any new deal would have to be in place by January 1.

Talks on a possible deal have carried on between officials in Brussels, with the focus on the fine details on proposals to allow the UK to diverge from EU rules in future while accepting limited tariffs in appropriate areas.

Mr Johnson has said that leaving without a free trade agreement still remains the “most likely outcome” as talks continue in Brussels. He told Cabinet that he wanted a deal and will continue negotiations.

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