As part of these engagements, the CBI has urged the government to stay ahead of the curve and provide business with continued targeted support at scale.
Accelerate efforts to protect jobs and livelihoods
With unemployment levels rising and survey data, including the CBI’s latest Industrial Trend Survey, showing a record-breaking fall in manufacturing activity, the CBI has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to stress the need for urgent action to be taken to protect jobs now and in the future.
Businesses have welcomed the government’s unprecedented actions to support businesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The support has been a lifeline for many firms. However, with loans, grants, wage subsidies and tax relief soon to end, the CBI’s letter urges the government to get ahead of the economic curve with the next wave of business support.
The CBI is asking the government to provide further grant support for SMEs via local authorities, extend the Business Rates relief in England to mid-size firms in all sectors, and extend the deadline for the Coronavirus Business Loan Scheme by at least a further three months. Further to this the CBI is also calling for the government to kick-start consumer demand through targeted VAT cuts and accelerate local infrastructure upgrades
Following the publication of the letter, the CBI will be continuing to engage with the Treasury to help prevent a long-term economic crisis and protect jobs and livelihoods.
Supporting the safe reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality
The CBI has also been working with the government to support the safe reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality to ensure a sustainable recovery.
In past week, the CBI has engaged with the Cabinet Secretary, Mark Sedwill, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey. During these calls, the focus has been on how to ensure business can reopen safely to help protect jobs and livelihoods.
Ahead of the government’s announcement this week on the reduction of the 2 metre rule, Carolyn spoke with Mr Hancock about the importance of the Test and Trace system in the fight against COVID-19 and supporting the re-opening of the economy safely by pinpointing any flare-ups and mitigating their impact.
Also discussing the health and economic wellbeing of the UK, Carolyn spoke with Mr Sedwill about the government’s considerations for reducing social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre and the vital role this could play in ensuring the operational viability of many businesses – particularly those in the retail and hospitality sectors. With the CBI able to provide whole economy business perspective on this matter, the government has since confirmed that from 4 July, a new “one metre plus” social distancing rule will be in place to help reopen the UK’s economy.
And finally, during the discussion with Ms Coffey, CBI’s UK Chief Policy Director, Matthew Fell, talked through the CBI’s recent letter to the Prime Minster where the CBI called for a jobs-rich recovery. Ms Coffey was particularly interested in idea for turning jobcentre plus into skills centres also discussed the idea of having sectoral and locally based approaches to tackling unemployment.
Following the CBI’s letter to the Prime Minister, the CBI has also written to Scotland’s Fist Minister, Northern Irelands Executive, and the Welsh First Minister, urging each Devolved Administration to put jobs and training, especially for young people, at the heart of economic recovery plans.
The CBI also wrote letters to Scotland’s Fist Minister, Northern Ireland’s Executive, and the Welsh First Minister.
Relaunching global Britain as part of the recovery
Elsewhere, and following the start of June EU Negotiation talks lacking progress last week Carolyn spoke with Didier Seeuws, Chief Negotiator, EU Council Special Taskforce.
During the call Carolyn highlighted business concerns and how firms do not have the bandwidth to deal with Brexit related issues amidst the current COVID-19 crisis. Mr Seeuws noted business concerns and talked through the importance of compromise and the fact progress is needed over the summer so that a draft joint text with possible landing zones is ready in September.
Finally, with the UK’s transition period with the EU set to end at the end of the year, the UK government is currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States of America. With the negotiations in progress, this week the CBI’s Head of US office, John Dickerman gave evidence to the International Trade Select Committee via web link.
The session focused on the negotiation of the UK-US FTA and during John’s remarks he highlighted the opportunities the UK-US FTA would provide for businesses, including procurement, mutual recognition off qualifications and free movements of workers, as well as issues of data flows and digital trade and AI regulations.