With COVID-19 and the ongoing Brexit talks continuing to be at the forefront of businesses’ minds, the CBI has been engaging with government Ministers highlighting the need for clarity. Whether securing a UK/EU trade deal or working with the governments across the UK on Covid restrictions - the CBI is working tirelessly to ensure business insight is at the centre of decision making. With one eye also on the UK’s recovery, the CBI has also been engaging with the government’s Net-Zero ambitions.
Ensuring the business voice is heard through the creation of a Brexit Business Taskforce
As UK/EU trade talks continue, and with the end of the transition period nearing closer, businesses are preparing for change, but they need to know what a final deal will look like. Last month, following a meeting with the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, the CBI secured the creation of a joint task force to accelerate two-way insight between government and business.
The purpose of the group is to intensify dialogue between government and business on the end of the transition period, work through practical issues, to feed in business insights, and to discuss post-Jan messaging and priorities.
The first meeting took place on 12 November, and the second took place on 19 November. Going forward, the taskforce will continue to meet weekly - until Christmas and beyond - to discuss business readiness for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.
During the first meeting which focused on advanced manufacturing and second meeting on agri-food, CBI’s acting Director General, Josh Hardie, outlined the urgent need for a deal, highlighting that every day counts for firm’s ability to prepare. Josh also urged the government to step up business support and called for greater clarity on what the new trading relationship means for firms and the steps businesses can take to prepare.
These are the same messages Josh wrote about in The Times’ Red Box on 16 November, where he emphasised that business resilience has been stripped bare by COVID-19 and that - with just 45 days left - many business-critical issues remain unresolved.
Urging for clarity ahead of the end of the current Covid-19 restrictions
Elsewhere, with firms having to contend with a range of additional lockdown restrictions across England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, the CBI is calling on the respective governments to set out exit plans to enable businesses to hit the ground running when measures are eased.
As experience in Wales illustrates, providing businesses with as much forward guidance as possible is vital in ensuring firms are equipped with the necessary information to plan ahead with greater confidence – particularly in the retail, leisure and hospitality industries.
Alongside this forward guidance, the CBI is also urging the government to provide long-term certainty on the business support available for firms and work with business to establish an effective mass-testing regime.
These are messages that Josh Hardie took directly to Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, during a recent business organisations roundtable. During the meeting, Josh highlighted the need to allow businesses to plan effectively ahead of 2 December, something the Business Secretary understood.
Working closely with the government as they reset their agenda
Away from Brexit and COVID, and looking ahead to the UK’s recovery, on 18 November the government published its 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.
Prior to the announcement, Josh Hardie spoke with Alex Hickman, the Prime Minister’s Business Adviser, and broadly welcomed the plans. Josh praised the clear statement of intent from the government, and the opportunities for UK-wide investment and green jobs.
Going forward, the CBI is calling for business and government to work together to create a pathway to decarbonisation and address challenges that exist, such as the phase out date for new petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicles.
This is something Josh Hardie also spoke about with Andrew Griffith, the newly appointed UK Net Zero Business Champion. This new role is designed to support the country’s business community to make credible plans to net zero by 2050 or earlier and has been welcomed by firms.
With the UK hosting next year’s COP26 and G7, this is a crucial moment for business and government to come together and show that the UK can lead the world in the technologies of the future, alongside creating sustainable jobs.