House of Fraser owner Yuan Yafei has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to give a “definite signal” over the Brexit deal she wants for the UK.

Yuan, who controls the department store chain through the Sanpower conglomerate he founded in 1993, said it was important for the UK government to reassure people during the crunch negotiations in Brussels.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of May’s three-day visit to China, Yuan insisted he had “confidence” in the Brexit talks and predicted that quitting the European Union would “not be too bad” for the UK economy.

His comments came as the EU27 agreed its negotiating stance for the transition period – a post-Brexit adjustment phase.

But Brexit secretary David Davis said that even agreeing terms on the transition period would not be easy, with a particular point of contention surrounding whether Britain should be free to sign new trade deals after March 2019.

The British Retail Consortium welcomed the news that the General Affairs Council had issued its negotiating directives on the terms of the transition period.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “A transitional period which allows current trading conditions to continue from March 2019, to keep goods flowing between the UK and other European markets, is the right decision for consumers and what the BRC has long campaigned for.”

She added: “This approach ensures that businesses do not face a cliff-edge by giving them time to work with suppliers and Government to adjust, thereby avoiding disruption and maintaining the choice and availability of affordable, quality products for consumers.

“Now that we have this clarity, the focus for government during that period must be to secure the continuity of free trade with Europe, alongside replicating the existing trade deals the EU has with other countries before we reach the end of the transition period.”