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27 June 2016 Insight

Letter to The Times: Business priorities post-EU referendum

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn writes in The Times about business priorities post-EU referendum

The British people have spoken in an explosive referendum result which will define the fortunes of the United Kingdom for generations to come.

The impact cannot be underestimated and will take time to understand. Many people, including the UK’s thousands of businesses, are asking what this means for them and the people who depend on them.

What we need is a plan.

The government must act with urgency to minimize the uncertainties that affect investment decisions and slow job creation.

The CBI is today writing to the Prime Minister, the Department for Business and the Treasury outlining the top priorities to achieve this.

The UK economy remains strong and businesses are resilient. Under the right conditions, business leaders will face these extraordinary challenges with confidence. Though many did not choose this result, they will do all they can to achieve the best possible outcomes.  

The first part of the plan must be to get strong, calm and decisive leadership in place as soon as possible. Never has there been a more important time to put the interests of the country ahead of party politics.  Businesses welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement of a delay in triggering Article 50 to create breathing space, but need rapid clarity on who is making the decisions.

Second, we must agree the principles that should underpin our new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. At the highest level, the government should resolve publicly to preserve the openness of the UK’s economy, one of its greatest strengths.

In practice, this means seeking to protect tariff and barrier-free access to the Single Market of 500 million consumers. It means ensuring companies are able to continue to attract the best people to the UK with the skills we need, while recognizing public concerns about immigration.  And, it means setting out clearly how the UK will agree the right international trade deals with the wider world.  

The third part of the plan is to forge close and deep collaboration between business and government to help shape the UK’s future economic relationships. The CBI and business leaders across the UK stand ready to work with the new leaders of our country to help chart the future course, starting as soon as practically possible.    

This needs to be a new kind of partnership, reaching out more widely than ever before across the UK’s business community. It should involve companies of all sizes, all sectors, and, vitally, from all parts of the country.

The Secretary of State for Business, Sajid Javid, has communicated his intent to start this planning process with business and community leaders across the UK. We welcome this.

There is one other action that needs to be taken immediately. The government should remove uncertainties over the long term right to stay in the UK for those already working here as soon as possible. We welcome the steps the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has taken to give this reassurance.

No one pretends this transition will be easy or that the change will be pain free. But now is the time for businesses across Britain to come together in partnership with government and communities to turn the will of the British people into a new set of world relationships that benefit everyone.

At the CBI, we will continue to work in the spirit of partnership to lead the voice of business in these vital decisions.  We are committed to securing the best possible future for our country for generations to come.