10 November 2017


CBI Annual Conference 2017

The prime minister and leader of the opposition speak to business leaders at the CBI’s flagship event.

CBI Annual Conference 2017

Earlier this week, over 1,200 delegates came together to discuss how businesses can prepare, respond and capitalise on to two key challenges facing the UK economy – globalisation and automation.

CBI President, Paul Drechsler, opened this year’s conference, calling on politicians to put aside their differences and to “end the Brexit soap opera”, arguing that business needs a single, clear strategy and plan for what kind of relationship the UK Government is seeking with the EU.

Citing figures from a new CBI survey, Paul noted that the deadline for triggering contingency plans has already passed for 10% of firms. And without a transition deal agreed by the time EU leaders gather in Brussels for the March summit, a total of 60% of businesses will have done the same. The survey also revealed that the agreement of transitional arrangements would halt the preparations of 75% of the country’s largest firms for a “no deal” scenario – reinforcing the CBI’s argument that a transition agreement must remain the urgent priority ahead of the December EU Council summit.

Read more on Paul Drechsler’s CBI Annual Conference speech

The political keynotes began with the prime minster, who was keen to offer reassurances to businesses that government shares a similar vision for a strong economy, built on fair, competitive markets. In her speech, Theresa May demonstrated a clear willingness to partner with business to build an economy and society that works for everyone. There were three key points to note from her address, all of which echoed CBI recommendations and interventions:

Watch the prime minister’s speech to CBI Conference

Leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, also indicated a desire for business and the Labour Party to work together in areas of “common ground” – particularly on Industrial Strategy, securing a Brexit transition deal as soon as possible and increasing investment in infrastructure and education.

But while business share Labour’s diagnosis of how to build a fair, innovative and productive UK economy, fundamental differences remain on how to get there, with Mr Corbyn continuing to promote Labour’s nationalisation agenda. Jeremy Corbyn went on to argue that this agenda wasn’t about being anti-business, but a reflection of growing awareness across developed economies that “things must change”.

Watch Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to CBI Conference

Over the course of the day, delegates also heard from US commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, Ángel Gurría, OECD secretary-general, and a range of businesses on how they are adapting to the challenges and opportunities of globalisation and automation including Microsoft, Accenture, Twitter, BT, Aviva and Sainsbury’s.   

For more information contact Hannah.collins@cbi.org.uk