LONDON Oct 17 The head of major miner BHP
Billiton says what Britain needs is a
"hard-headed Brexit", which would maintain trade relations with
the European Union and place the focus on minimising bureaucracy
as much as on keeping tariffs low.
In the run-up to the June 23 referendum, when the British
public voted to leave the European Union, BHP Chief Executive
Andrew Mackenzie was among the company bosses who spoke out in
favour of staying in, warning that Brexit could inflict a decade
of damaging uncertainty on business.
On Monday, he told Reuters his concern was that the terms
"hard" and "soft" Brexit, being used in the political debate,
were sending the wrong message.
The term "hard" refers to a Brexit in which Britain, unable
to secure a deal in which it would retain a high level of access
to the EU single market while at the same time restricting
immigration from the EU, would sever preferential trade terms
with the world's biggest trading bloc.
This would leave Britain facing tariffs when doing business
with the European Union.
"One big risk is trade relations with our biggest partner.
To call that 'soft' is crazy. Let's be sensible, pragmatic. What
people call 'soft', I call 'hard-headed'," he said, adding that
he cared about limiting bureaucracy as much as ensuring low
BHP and other miners, whose earnings are mostly in dollars
and whose operations are primarily outside the EU, have been
relatively unscathed by the June vote, although many of them
have said any loss of economic confidence could damage them.
So far the shareprices of miners have risen since June as
some investors treat the sector as a hedge against the fall in
the value of sterling, triggered by concerns about economic
weakness and uncertainty over Britain's negotiations.
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Richard Balmforth)