1 July 2016

  |  CBI Press Team


Firms need to see clear Brexit plan taking shape now

EU workers must be allowed to stay in UK.

Firms need to see clear Brexit plan taking shape now

Calm and decisive leadership, a clear plan for the UK’s future outside the EU and a framework for business and the Government to work together and deliver that plan are businesses’ immediate priorities as the country navigates its exit from the EU, according to the CBI.

Speaking at the London Evening Standard’s inaugural Business Awards, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, also said the Government must confirm that workers from the EU who are already in the UK can stay in the country.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“A week ago the world changed. As many of you will attest, there is deep, profound concern. But at the same time there is an air of pragmatism - companies in Britain are getting ready to get on with it.

“Business leaders are moving from the shock to the questions to the plan to the action, and I see that there are three immediate priorities.”

On the need for leadership from the Government, Carolyn said:

“Business needs government to put aside party politics and lead now.

“We do have a timetable for a new Prime Minister. Though this may feel fast in politics, in these circumstances, it’s painfully glacial. The markets and business decisions won’t wait 8 weeks.

“Companies need to see a plan taking shape for a world outside the EU. The idea of an EU unit under Oliver Letwin in the Cabinet office makes sense, the appointment of Oliver Robbins is welcome.

“But more than this, far more than this, we need the leadership candidates who may be Prime Minister to engage with business, as soon as possible. They need to inspire confidence, and speak directly to investors around the world, sending out a clear message that we’re still open for business.

“Closer to home, we need a clear commitment to investment and job creation. And we must keep existing decisions on track. Housing, infrastructure spending, devolution plans through Local Enterprise Partnerships – the show must go on, with no missed deadlines.”

On a plan for the UK’s future outside the EU, Carolyn said:

“Beyond strong leadership today, we also need a plan for tomorrow, which sets out the principles that should underpin our new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world.

“The Government should resolve publicly to ensure the preservation of an open economy. We should protect tariff and barrier-free access to the Single Market. We should protect the access business has under existing EU world trade deals. And we need to continue to attract global talent.

“We need to consider how to build a simple, clear immigration system that recognises the concerns of the pubic and still allows firms like these to access the skills they need.

“Inevitable trade-offs will be necessary. But it’s crucial that we – as business – decide where the red lines are drawn, sector by sector, so that Government can make an informed decision on the most difficult trade-offs.”

On the need for business and the Government to work together, Carolyn said:

“We need a strong working partnership between government and business that starts now.

“It’s a partnership that commits the Government to stand behind the principles that underpin our open economy, and where business speaks with a clear and unified voice.

“We’ve already made a start on this. In the past six days, the CBI has consulted hundreds of firms, and held over 100 one-to-one meetings with members.

“For finance, it’s keeping the Financial Services passport. For education, it’s the future of international students and their funding programmes they rely on. For our creative industries, it’s how regulation might change in the long-term.

“The devolved nations will also have their own priorities which will need to be carefully listened to. So let’s get this up and running – a practical partnership that will deliver for this country.

“In these challenging times, we shouldn’t forget that there are many extraordinary businesses in this country. It’s more important than ever before that business stands together, makes our voice heard, and helps build this new future.”

On EU workers being given the right to stay in the UK, Carolyn said:

“And there’s one area in particular where we need urgent clarity. All across London and the UK, there are people who have come from EU countries to make a life for themselves in our country. People who take pride in their jobs and make a contribution to their communities. And who suddenly, overnight, find themselves facing a profoundly uncertain future.

“Many are nervous and scared. They are not a number in immigration statistics. They are not bargaining chips. They are people who now feel unwelcome and unsafe.

“The Government must confirm that those people from the EU who are already working in the UK can stay. This reassurance must be immediate and it must be unequivocal.

“We very much welcome the reassurances given by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. But we now need a national promise, where business leadership can play a role.”