LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May moved to ease concerns over Brexit among British business on Thursday, saying she wanted a "smooth, orderly exit" from the European Union including "a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges".
At a meeting with heads of industry groups and chief executives, May signaled her desire to meet business more often, a shift for a prime minister whose former aides felt big companies were too close to government.
Britain's Chambers of Commerce (BCC), an employers group, warned the government it needed to engage in "sustained and structured" discussions with business over Brexit and avoid an abrupt departure from the bloc.
"On Brexit, the prime minister reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges," a spokesman for the prime minister said.
"The prime minister welcomed the valuable contributions which have come from discussions with business at various levels of government over the past year, including on the development of a modern industrial strategy, and emphasized the need for this engagement to intensify over the period ahead."
Many companies have urged the government to push the European Union to agree a clear and lengthy transitional arrangement after Britain leaves the bloc in 2019 to help them make investment decisions.
BCC President Francis Martin said business needed "to see sustained and structured discussion with business on the dozens of practical, real-world questions that firms face as a consequence of Brexit".
"The prospect of multiple, costly, adjustments to trading conditions is a concern for many, so starting discussions on transition arrangements as soon as possible would go a long way to boost business confidence," he said in a statement.
Reporting by Costas Pitas and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by William Schomberg and Alison Williams