LONDON — Europe’s major markets saw their losses widen in a day of light trading – with the U.S. closed for the July 4 holiday — and more changes in the wake of the Brexit referendum.
On Monday, the divisive figure Nigel Farage stepped down as leader of the country’s anti-European Union, anti-immigration UKIP party, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne promised to slash corporation tax in a bid to make post-Brexit Britain attractive to investors.
Milan’s FTSE MIB led the retreat, falling 1.7 percent to 16,012.31, followed by the CAC 40 in Paris, 0.9 percent to 4,234.86, and the FTSE 100 in London, 0.8 percent to 6,522.26. The DAX in Frankfurt dipped 0.7 percent to close at 9,709.09.
Retail and luxury stocks were uneven, with the day’s biggest fallers including Ted Baker, 4.2 percent to 22.95 pounds; Italia Independent Group, 7.8 percent to 6.36 euros; Marks and Spencer, 5.1 percent to 3.04 pounds and Geox, 4.6 percent to 2.72 euros.
Among the few stocks that gained modest ground were French Connection, 2.7 percent to 0.38 pounds; and Salvatore Ferragamo, 1.2 percent to 18.56 euros.
Farage, whose U.K. Independence Party had long lobbied for Britain’s exit from the EU, said in his resignation speech on Monday morning that Britain needed a Brexit-focused prime minister.
While his resignation is of little political importance — there is only one UKIP MP in the British Parliament — it has only added to the turmoil following the country’s vote last month to leave the EU.
During a major protest in central London over the weekend, people carried a variety of signs, some which read: “Fromage not Farage.”
Last year, during the general election, Farage lost his seat as a member of the British Parliament, although he is still a member of the European Parliament. Farage said he would finish his term before standing down.
Meanwhile, Osborne told the Financial Times in an interview that he plans to cut the country’s corporation tax to below 15 percent from its current 20 percent rate in a bid to lure foreign investment.
According to the BBC, the move would give the U.K. the lowest corporation tax of any major economy, and could engender ill will among Britain’s European neighbors before new, post-Brexit trade deals are even negotiated.
The Brexit debate remains top of mind here as Britons digest the implications of the country’s vote last month to leave the EU.
Over the weekend, thousands — including a handful of fashion industry figures — took to the streets of central London to protest the referendum result that will see Britain withdraw from the EU in two years’ time.
The rally, which started at Hyde Park, saw demonstrators holding signs reading “Bremain,” “We Love EU,” and “Love Not Leave.” They shouted “Fromage not Farage,” as they marched to Parliament Square and Downing Street.
“We chose to march to first show our solidarity with the European, international and LGBT community across the U.K., all of which have experienced horrendous hate toward them since the result,” Matthew Harding told WWD. “It is a sad fact that this hatred has been underlying for far too long in our society, and now feels it’s been given permission to exercise that voice. We must stamp out this attitude and heal this wounded country.”
He called the referendum an “opinion poll,” and argued the winning margin was “far too narrow and far too divisive to put our country through the turmoil that has begun. We beg [the government] to listen not only to the opinion poll, but also to the many economic, political and social experts when deciding this country’s fate. Lastly, this opinion poll’s result would be far more credible if it hadn’t been built on (already unravelling) lies by the far right.”
Sibling’s McCreery ended up on stage singing ABBA at the end of the march. “The atmosphere was great,” McCreery told WWD. “It was one of acceptance and inclusion. We had a megaphone and used iTunes during the march to play appropriate music from Mariah Carey to ABBA. It was a march of all age groups and class. To be fair it felt less about Remain and more about trying to find a voice beyond all the terrible politics and our useless government.”
“Sid (Bryan) and I had made our voice heard by wearing IN t-shirt at the finale of our show,” she added, referring to Sibling’s co-designer. “Being part of the single market is important to the industry we are in. To us, it just makes sense. We just want what’s best for the country. We don’t care how you voted, but we do care about what’s happening now: a (prime minister) none of us from either side has voted for, and possibly an exit agreement that will damage the country as a whole. We have to unite beyond London. This is an issue for all of us, country wide. In fact, worldwide.”
Vivienne Westwood told WWD “It’s a tragedy, we want to make the world a better place, we must cooperate, Britain cannot go it alone. Peace and Love.”
The results of the June 23 referendum had Leave winning with 51.9 percent of the vote, with 48.1 percent voting Remain. The referendum drew one of the highest voter turnouts in years — 72 percent — although just one-third of the 18-to-24 age group actually cast their ballots. A petition calling for a second referendum created by William Healey now has more than four million signatures.
It also emerged over the weekend that Britain’s First Lady Samantha Cameron, who stood firmly with her husband in the Remain camp, may already be plotting a new career post-Brexit. Cameron, who is a consultant at Smythson, the Bond Street stationer and luxury leather brand, is reported to be mulling the launch of a clothing line, according to The Times of London.
“Mrs. Cameron is said by friends to be planning a launch of her own line of clothing over the next few years,” the newspaper said. Cameron could not be immediately reached for comment.
A longtime supporter of the country’s fashion industry, Cameron is a British Fashion Council ambassador and a judge on the British Vogue Designer Fashion Fund.