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Wilbur Ross, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Commerce secretary, has urged other countries to exploit the "God-given opportunity" to steal business from the U.K., according to a report in The Times.
Ross urged Cypriot financiers to strike during this "period of confusion" in Britain to draw businesses away from the City. He made the remarks before the U.S. election and his selection by the Trump.
"I recommend that Cyprus should adopt and immediately announce even more liberal financial service policies than it already has so that it can try to take advantage of the inevitable relocations that will occur during the period of confusion," Ross said, according to The Times.
He further added that Britain's departure from the European Union was a "God-given opportunity" for the City's financial rivals, especially Frankfurt and Dublin in particular.
If confirmed as Commerce secretary, Ross would be among those responsible for negotiating a free trade deal with the U.K. But his comments have sparked speculation that the U.S. may seek to exploit the uncertainty created by Brexit in order to lure business away from London.
Britain's Labour Party called the comments a form of "statutory warning" that other economies were seeking to take advantage of U.K.'s exit from the EU, The Times reported.
"Wilbur Ross's comments are a stark reminder that the trade deals Britain will agree in future will not depend on goodwill from our partners, but on their own shrewd political and economic calculations," Barry Gardiner, the shadow International Trade secretary told The Times.
"Theresa May's government has failed to articulate a coherent vision of what kind of economy Brexit Britain will be. This makes us weak and vulnerable in the eyes of others."
Ross has also referred to Brexit as the "most expensive divorce proceeding in the history of the world."
The 79-year-old private equity billionaire has endorsed the "Trump trade doctrine," which stipulates that any new trade must reduce the U.S. trade deficit, strengthen manufacturing and boost growth. Britain has a trade surplus with the U.S.
You can read the full Times report here.
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