Barclays UK boss brushes aside Corbyn fears in City

Barclays UK chairman Sir Ian Cheshire has insisted British businesses would “get on and deal with” whichever government wins the election, despite City fears over Jeremy Corbyn.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Sir Ian – who formerly led B&Q owner Kingfisher – said UK plc would “work with” any government elected next month.

He said the snap General Election on December 12 was a step forward to breaking the deadlock on Brexit in Parliament and may bring the UK closer to ending uncertainty that has wrought havoc on the economy.

A pro-remainer, Sir Ian said there will be more tactical voting next month as the election centres on Britain’s future with the EU.

When asked if businesses are as fearful of a Labour government in this election, he said: “Most people I know in the City will get on and they will deal with whatever government is elected.”

“We all understand that governments get elected and business will work with them,” he said.

But it is said the City is even more fearful of a Labour government under Mr Corbyn than of a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour Party has pledged to raise taxes on capital gains, businesses and top earners among other policies unpopular in the City.

Sir Ian’s comments came after Barclays launched the third leg of its drive to boost local economies, embarking on a three-year pilot for rural communities in Taunton Deane, Somerset.

The lending giant is planning to work with business leaders, local government, firms and schools to help bolster the economy and boost skills in the area.

In a worrying sign of the impact of Brexit uncertainty on the local community, research by Barclays found only 49% of businesses in the region feel optimistic about the UK economy.

Sir Ian said rural communities like Taunton Deane are exposed to Brexit due to farming subsidies and tariffs.

Businesses up and down the UK have also been hit hard by the uncertainty over Brexit, shelving investment plans and feeling the hit from consumer caution.

Barclays was quick to welcome Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to secure a Brexit deal with the EU last month, while Sir Ian also recently expressed frustration at Parliament’s refusal to back the deal.

On the election, Sir Ian said: “At least it feels like an election is a step forward to a resolution.”

“We’ve been in a period of uncertainty for some time… we welcome that period finishing as something positive.”

The bank’s pilot in Taunton Deane follows similar launches in Bury, Greater Manchester in September 2018 and Kilmarnock, Scotland in June this year.

Barclays is lining up a fourth next year in a coastal town, but wants to eventually expand the initiative nationwide.

“We are a national bank and want to have a national impact,” said Sir Ian.