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Britain is increasingly grappling with the bewildering economic consequences of its pending departure from the European Union. For one company, Nim’s Fruit Crisps, the impact is measured in the soaring cost of pineapple. Nim’s dries fruits into snacks served up like potato chips, operating out of a former metal shop in this industrial enclave east of London. One of its best-selling varieties uses pineapple from Costa Rica that is shipped in by an Amsterdam-based trading company. The pineapple is priced in euros. Since Britain’s decision to leave the EU — widely known as Brexit — the British pound has surrendered nearly 14 percent of its value against the euro on fears that trade will be disrupted. Confronting higher prices for pineapple, the company’s founder, Nimisha Raja, recently brought in a machine to replace three workers who used to peel fruit by hand. “I had to cut costs somewhere,” she said. She could be speaking for all of Britain. In the 16 months since the referendum that set Brexit in motion, the British economy has weakened in the face of a confounding array of uncertainties. Thrift is the order of the day, along with worries about multinational companies’ paring their investments in Britain. Last week, the picture appeared to brighten, as official data showed the economy had expanded a tad more than expected between July and September.
But some economists fear such a move is premature given Britain’s fragile state. Many focused on plunging retail and car sales as a harbinger of trouble. The drop in the pound has lifted prices on goods ranging from Italian olive oil to Chinese-made electronics. The rate of inflation reached 3 percent in September, the fastest pace in five years. Consumer spending has dipped over the past year while consumer credit is rising — a combination that often ends badly.With the boundaries of commerce unclear, some companies are reassessing the appeal of centering operations in Britain, the former seat of a global empire that increasingly looks like an island nation. “Clearly, growth has slowed quite sharply over the last several months,” said Peter Dixon, a global financial economist at Commerzbank AG in London.
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