21 May 2019
CBI President John Allan will use this year’s address at CBI Annual Dinner to highlight two major threats – Brexit and renationalisation - to the essential partnership between business and government.
Speaking at The Brewery in Central London before a business audience including senior politicians from both Government and Opposition, Mr Allan will appeal to all sides to resolve the existing Brexit deadlock. He will remind them that continued uncertainty is already negatively affecting investment, risking jobs and living standards.
Secondly, Mr Allan will issue a stern warning about Labour’s renationalisation plans, warning that revisiting past mistakes risks investment at a time when the UK needs to remain open to the world.
At the Lloyds Banking Group sponsored event where the Chancellor of the Exchequer will also be speaking, Mr Allan will highlight the importance of getting the partnership between business and government right. He will say this is vital for the UK to tackle longer-term challenges, including climate change, build essential infrastructure like HS2 and ensure the UK’s workforce is fit for the future.
On Brexit, John Allan, CBI President, is expected to say:
“One year ago, my predecessor, Paul Drechsler, stood on this stage and called for an end to the Brexit logjam. The negotiations, he said, had been held up at customs. And where are we now?
“Unthinkably, in much the same place and that has come at an ever-growing cost. £800 billion pounds of financial capital moved out of the UK. In 2018, four successive quarters of falling investment, the longest such period since the financial crash. UK stockpiling at a rate unseen since records began. The closure, cancellation or relocation of great businesses and their production lines. And all the while our international competitors are pulling ahead.
“So, tonight I have a plea, from the heart of business, to the heart of politics. Resolve this gridlock. Do whatever it takes and do it fast. The Prime Minister’s decision to bring back the Withdrawal Bill in early June is one more opportunity for Parliament to resolve this mess.
“Parliament must seize that opportunity, if not, the uncertainty will become far more acute. It’s not for business leaders to tell politicians when to trigger democratic events. But be in no doubt political failure today means economic failure tomorrow. We need to find a way through.”
On renationalisation, John is expected to say:
“Last week, the Labour Party announced its plans to re-nationalise the National Grid. The latest company the Labour Party wants to take into state ownership.
“These plans will harm the people they are supposed to help. Nearly six million pensioners, employees who today benefit from an employee ownership scheme; and people dependent on charities which have invested in the industries under threat. People are now asking: is my money, my savings, my income at risk?
“Yet Labour’s proposals are not just a threat to these industries but to investment in our country at a time when it’s most needed. And above all, to that essential partnership between business and government.”
On the changing nature of politics, John is expected to say:
“There is a path away from Brexit paralysis and ideological positioning. A way for us to harness the joint potential of government and business, but it requires change on both sides.
“The first is change to how we do politics in this country. The age of two-party politics is in flux. No party has won and sustained a strong majority in this country for nearly 15 years. And with a country divided, it’s not likely to happen soon.
“So we must create a new, consensus-building politics. One that acknowledges new electoral realities and provides long-term certainty for our big national projects on infrastructure, skills and climate change.”
On the changing nature of business and what it means for productivity, John is expected to say:
“We need a fresh approach in business too, acknowledging the problems politicians are trying to solve and helping provide answers.
“In the past week, we’ve seen some brilliant examples of how to do it right. Julian Richer converting Richer Sounds into an employee ownership trust. BT spending £50 million pounds a year on shares for its employees and Capita appointing employees to its board. It can be just the beginning.
“Last week we published a report which shows that if businesses improve how they engage their people we could give the economy a productivity boost worth over £100 billion pounds.
“There’s not just one way to do it - but it works best when business and government work together.
“We saw it again last week in the West Midlands, with the first Local Industrial Strategy.
“Let’s build on it, and secure long-term, ambitious local industrial strategies in every part of the country.”
In conclusion to his speech, John will say:
“Just think what business and government working better together could deliver. On climate change – that’s how we’ll meet the net-zero challenge.
“On infrastructure – we’ll better connect London with the North, and the UK with the rest of the world. Finish HS2, Crossrail, and High Speed 3 in the North.
“And on digital skills – transform work itself through an education system that futureproofs our workforce.”