By Huw Jones, Anjuli Davies and Andrew MacAskill LONDON (Reuters) - Britain must negotiate a staggered departure from the European Union over several years or risk banks leaving the country, the biggest banking lobby group will warn the government in coming weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. The British Bankers' Association will argue its case in a report to Prime Minister Theresa May's government, outlining the risks for the country if she does not secure a "transition" phase beyond the two-year withdrawal period that will begin when she invokes Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty. The document also calls for a clear message from the government about its vision of Brexit, following perceived mixed messages from ministers about the importance they place on retaining access to the EU single market.
Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a rebuke on Friday over her plans for Brexit after voters in the London suburb of Richmond ousted a eurosceptic lawmaker in favour of a pro-European candidate. In a stunning upset, Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney defeated Zac Goldsmith, who had held the seat for May's Conservative party since 2010, in a battle that became a mini-referendum on Brexit. "Our message is clear: we do not want a hard Brexit," Olney said as she became her party's ninth MP with 49.68 percent of the vote, compared to 45.15 percent for Goldsmith.
South Africa's economy evaded a potentially damaging blow Friday when the Standard & Poor's rating agency maintained the country's foreign currency debt status one notch above junk status. S&P however kept its negative outlook for South Africa, which has struggled with political friction under President Jacob Zuma, high unemployment and slow growth. "Political events have distracted from growth-enhancing reforms, while low GDP growth continues to affect South Africa's economic and fiscal performance," S&P warned.