Through these engagements the CBI has been highlighting business insight on key issues from the relationship between business and government and local lockdowns to the UK’s international networks and the countries going recovery to COVID-19.
Raising businesses’ priorities with government
Following the recent appointment of Sir Simon Case to Permanent Secretary in No.10, last week, CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, held an introductory telephone call to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on firms.
With Mr Case appointed to oversee the coordination of the government’s response to COVID-19, Carolyn used the meeting to outline the CBI’s latest insight on the economic recovery, firms’ key priorities going into the summer and the importance of collaboration between both government and business and the different governments across the UK.
Alongside discussing the impact of support measures for business thus far, Carolyn also raised the importance of the government’s interventions keeping pace with the reality facing businesses on the ground. Referencing the experiences of firms involved in the ongoing local lockdown in Leicester, Carolyn outlined the sense of confusion and urged Sir Simon to work with relevant government departments to provide businesses with additional support where its needed should future local lockdowns be needed.
Elsewhere and around the corner from Downing Street at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Sarah Munby, was appointed as the department’s new Permanent Secretary earlier this month.
One of Ms Munby’s first engagements was to speak with Carolyn about her new role to outline her priorities for the department as well as to hear business insights following the Prime Minister’s statement regarding easing of further lockdown measures.
As well as highlighting the CBI’s reaction to the Prime Minister’s statement which welcomed further guidance, Carolyn discussed how new measures and the use of the track and trace system will help build confidence and help those employees who want to return to the office to do so.
Read the CBI’s response to the Prime Minister's announcement regarding easing of further lockdown measures.
Engaging with the government’s Brexit Transition campaign and the UK’s WTO nominee
Alongside the economic recovery from the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a prominent concern for many CBI members is the prospect of UK and EU failing to agree a negotiated exit from the transition period when it ends later this year.
Despite an intensification of talks between UK and EU negotiators in recent weeks, progress has remained slow. Though disagreement remains over issues including fisheries, fair competition provisions and financial services, progress has been made amid the challenges of the pandemic. The UK Government has set out details of its Border Operating Model, while the EU appreciates why a role for the European Court of Justice would hamper further headway.
This slow pace of progress is feeding through into increased apprehension in boardrooms across the country, with the CBI’s latest economic survey insight revealing three in four firms concerned about a ‘non-negotiated exit’ from the EU - the UK’s biggest trading partner.
The CBI survey also reveals that business preparations for the end of the transition period have stalled or gone into reverse since January.
Prior to publishing the survey, the CBI’s been increasing its engagement with the Cabinet Office’s UK-EU Transition Team, with Carolyn attending a business briefing led by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove.
During the open discussion, Carolyn highlighted the significant challenges for firms to prepare for a deal or no deal at the end of 2020, with business resilience has been tested to the limits this year in light of the challenges presented by Covid-19. Carolyn went on to discuss the new Border Operating Model and how it can help some businesses begin to plan for 2021 but pointed to the gaps in guidance that that need to be plugged before preparation can begin.
Carolyn offered the CBI’s support to help business and government through this process and highlighted the CBI’s Brexit hub which is currently being updated.
Continuing to engage with the opposition
Finally, following the election of a new Labour Leader earlier this year, the CBI has continued to build positive relationships with Labour’s top team.
With Labour’s senior team hosting bi-weekly business meetings which include representatives from the five major business organisations, engagement has continued with discussions focusing on business priorities and how the Labour party can be a constructive partner.
At the last meeting hosted by Shadow Business secretary, Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, the discussion focused on the latest government announcements and developments on local lockdowns.
During the discussion, CBI’s Chief Economist, Rain Newton Smith, welcomed the Chancellor’s focus on supporting jobs as well as their creation, protection as well as well as the recovery paying attention to the green agenda. However, Rain went on to highlight the need for further business support sighting the CBI’s recent Growth Indicator which showed, nearly 70% of firms are running low on cash, and three in four are reporting lack of demand.