- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2016

Though Britons are keeping a stiff upper lip about the future of bilateral U.S.-U.K. trade in the post-Brexit world, there are looming clouds of uncertainty for many American businesses that rely on transatlantic trade, one key voice in the British-American business scene acknowledged Monday.

Colin Brown, chairman of the British-American Business Council of Northern California, said that some companies in the Bay Area were shocked when the British voted last week to leave the European Union.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” Mr. Brown said. “It’s not quite clear yet what [leaving] means and the uncertainty is concerning. Some people view that as positive opportunity and some don’t like uncertainty. It’s complicated. It’s neither good nor bad — it’s uncertain.”

Though he said a majority of the drama will unfold over the next two years of negotiations, the short-term question remains: What does the U.K. do now to attract business on its own, as opposed to part of a massive 28-nation bloc?

Mr. Brown said he feared that companies wanting to expand into Europe won’t use the U.K. as the bridge, opting instead to use other capitals like Madrid, Paris and Berlin within the EU as entry points into the continent’s markets.

The U.K. has seen some immediate results after the unexpected results came in on Friday as global equity markets were hit hard and the value of the pound dropped to historic lows.

SEE ALSO: Time for politicians to stop whining about Brexit, start negotiating

Not everyone is so concerned.

Eamonn Cooney, president of the Washington-based British-American Business Association, said there will be some volatility in the short term, but the long term the bilateral commercial relationship will endure.

“It’s a huge change in history for the U.K., but from a business and trade point of view, we do firmly believe that it will not adversely affect trade, and that U.K. and U.S. trade will continue to be a strong relationship as it has in the past,” Mr. Cooney said.

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are pushing the same message, in the face of market volatility and growing political uncertainty in London.

Mr. Obama reassured the world on Friday that Britain’s decision to leave the EU would not affect the “special relationship” between the U.K. and the U.S. Mr. Cameron, who has already submitted his resignation after vainly trying to keep his country in the EU, said there will not be any initial change in the way goods can be moved or sold.

Mr. Cooney said he was certain that business and industry leaders would remain influential as the U.K. negotiates its exit deal with the EU in upcoming years. Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Cooney agreed, however, that the process will be anything but speedy.

“It’s also important to remember that while people have voted, the U.K. is still a member of the EU and will be for a long time while they work this out,” Mr. Cooney said. “This will take quite some time to iron out.”

Clifford Grove, president of the British-American Club in northeast Ohio, said he was sure the situation would “work itself out” in just a few years.

“It could be an economic disaster,” Mr. Grove said, “but English people don’t like to be ruled by somebody else.”

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