20 November 2016

  |  CBI Press Team


Firms 100% committed to making best of Brexit - CBI President

In a speech to more than one thousand business leaders at the Grosvenor House Hotel, the CBI’s President will call on the Government to build on the certainty it has provided to the economy

Firms 100% committed to making best of Brexit - CBI President

Businesses are 100% committed to making the best of Brexit, and in partnership with Government will help ensure a smooth exit from the EU in 2019, CBI President Paul Drechsler will say in a speech at the CBI’s Annual Conference in London (on Monday).  

In a speech to more than one thousand business leaders at the Grosvenor House Hotel, the CBI’s President will call on the Government to build on the certainty it has provided to the economy, through announcements on Heathrow and Hinkley Point, by implementing transitional arrangements once Britain leaves the EU in 2019.

He will also champion the ‘vast, vast majority’ of businesses as a force for good, but say that the ‘unacceptable transgressions’ of a tiny minority, which have made people question the value of business as a whole, must be tackled, and that business itself should take the lead.    

On businesses’ commitment to make the best of Brexit, Mr Drechsler will say:

“The firms I speak to every day are 100% committed to making the best of Brexit.

“To do this, government and business must do more than just work together.

“We must be two partners with a common cause.

“Two signatories to the same contract, securing the best possible result for the British people.

“On Brexit, business has a responsibility to be part of the solution.

“I’d like to thank every person in this room for how you’ve led your businesses since 23rd June.

“When times were tough you remained optimistic and mindful of economic stability. That deserves recognition.

“We need to remain calm, confident and constructive.”


On the need to mitigate economic uncertainty, Mr Drechsler will say:

“When it comes to negotiations, no-one understands the need for discretion better than business.

“We’re not asking for a running commentary - but we are looking for clarity and – above all – a plan. 

“We’ve seen encouraging signs. The Government has set a deadline for triggering Article 50.

“It’s given guarantees on EU funding programmes that have already been allocated.

“And it’s offset uncertainty around Brexit with greater certainty on Heathrow and Hinkley Point.

“But in other areas uncertainty remains.

“Business needs to know we won’t close our borders to Europe’s talent, or lose our privileged access to Europe’s markets. 

“And there’s another important question: what happens on the day after Brexit?

“When the clock strikes midnight, and our two years’ negotiating time is up?

“Today, businesses are inevitably considering the cliff edge scenario – a sudden and overnight transformation in trading conditions.

“If this happens, firms could find themselves stranded in a regulatory no man’s land.

“And even if our legal obligations are clear and in place there would also be real, practical implications.

“Our ports, airports and logistics firms, if faced with new trading rules, could suddenly need new and potentially complex paperwork, which would take more time and money to process.

“As a result, they’d need more warehouses to store more goods on-site, and more supply roads for the vehicles waiting to deliver them.

“At short notice – this would be impossible.

“So – for many firms it’s not about a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, but a ‘smooth’ Brexit, which avoids these cliff edge problems.

“The Government should build on the positive moves it has already made to dispel uncertainty by drawing up plans for a smooth transition, giving firms both the time to adapt to new regulation and the confidence to invest beyond 2019.” 

While recognising areas for improvement, Mr Drechsler will champion business in a changing world:

“Many people still see business as something they are not part of, run by a privileged few who don’t look or sound like them, and who seem to play by a different set of rules.

“We need to acknowledge that there have been unacceptable transgressions, which have made people question the value of what we do. And our right to do it.

“These cases are exceptions, but they’re shaping people’s view of all of us.

“On a range of issues – we need to show not just that we’re listening to people’s concerns, but that we’re acting on them.

“Firms should explain – in public - what steps they’ve taken on employee engagement and representation.

“And we need to send out a strong message that rewarding failure is not an option.

“Exceptional pay can only be justified by exceptional performance.

“That’s why we want the Government to introduce a binding vote on executive pay for ‘repeat offenders’ who fail, again and again, to satisfy shareholders with their pay decisions.

“But alongside tackling the failings of the tiny minority we need to be champions of the vast, vast majority.  

“We need to show people that business is on your side.

“Firms of all sizes are providing opportunities for people across the UK. 

“Big firms alone employ more than 10 million people - the same as the entire population of Portugal!

“And we’re on people’s side on education. 

“I’m Chairman of Teach First, the social mobility charity which was born out of business.

“Over the last 15 years it has placed 10,000 teachers in schools that need them the most.

“These teachers have inspired, educated and opened opportunities for over one million children from low income communities.

“Without business that would not have happened.

“Because, without the support of business alongside our Government partners, Teach First would not exist. 

 “And, as business, we should all be proud that last year firms invested over £45 billion in skills and training.”

Concluding his speech, Mr Drechsler will say:

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

“I wonder, when people look back at this period of change, in 10 or 20 years’ time, what will they say about British business?

“That we surrendered to the ‘wait and see’ mentality.

“Or that we held our nerve and kept on going?

“That we kept pushing for the best deal from Brexit.

“That we kept investing in great British innovation. 

“And that we kept showing people business is on their side. 

“So – whatever your size, whatever you do, wherever you’re from, let’s all champion the difference business makes every day.”