LONDON, July 20 (Reuters) - Unilever Chief Executive Paul Polman on Thursday will ask British Prime Minister Theresa May to give businesses more time to adapt to Brexit.
“We will be talking about the possibility of a longer transition period,” Polman told reporters ahead of a planned visit to 10 Downing Street, May’s official residence. He said that a lengthy transition for Britain’s exit from the European Union was “becoming more realistic now”.
Polman, a Dutch national, said talks will also cover how the private sector can influence the process so that complex issues - such as border taxes, intellectual property, regulations or data protection - “can proceed as smoothly as possible without doing further damage than what we have to deal with already”.
“You can imagine from where I’m sitting, as a European but having my heart in the UK as well, that I have some concrete suggestions of what can be done there,” Polman said on a call with reporters following release of the consumer goods company’s second-quarter results.
“There is no doubt that the quicker we can get some of the initial issues out of the way - like financial arrangements, citizens’ rights, the issue of Ireland - the quicker we can focus on the trade side and the trade relations side,” he said.
Unilever, whose products range from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, currently has a dual structure, with headquarters, boards of directors and stock listings in both Britain and the Netherlands. This is under review in the wake of a rebuffed $143 billion takeover bid from Kraft Heinz, and the company expects to say by the end of the year whether it will combine into one.
Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Ben Hirschler and Jane Merriman