01 February 2021
The CBI is today (Monday) urging the Government to work with business to best identify economy-critical elements to its roadmap out of the latest lockdown in England.
With Government plans to publish its exit strategy expected in late February, the UK’s leading business group is already consulting its members on how best to safely reopen the economy.
In a letter to the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the CBI’s Director-General, Tony Danker, says that: “With health teams rightly in crisis management mode, we in business along with the economic ministries can use this time to plan for a successful re-opening of the economy when the moment is right to do so.”
The CBI identifies at least 6 elements that will help firms plan and prepare in advance of a lifting of restrictions. The letter is not attempting to set a specific date for re-opening as we must rightly be driven by health data. Those economy-critical elements are:
1. Confirming once more what will be considered low, medium or high-risk economic activity, so that businesses can understand what will open sooner or later.
2. Deciding whether or not there will be a return to tiering, as part of a gradual re-opening. And if so, what will now be permitted under each tier as more people become vaccinated.
3. Identifying and understanding the conditions that need to be met before rolling back certain restrictions, and ultimately the need for social distancing.
4. Outlining how the vaccine will be deployed once the most vulnerable groups are inoculated, to reach the Government’s target of all UK adults being offered a vaccine by Autumn. We believe there are strong arguments for phase 2 of the roll-out being done in a way that maximises the safe re-opening of the economy, such as prioritising key enablers like schools, transport, and other key public services.
5. Thinking how regular mass rapid testing in the community and workplaces could allow a wider, speedier reopening of the economy. It would set out what additional freedoms it might permit individuals and firms that commit to regular testing, as well as address the duration of asymptomatic testing so that workplaces and society are resilient to any new strains of the virus in the medium to long term.
6. Creating bespoke, detailed plans for the harder to open sectors of the economy, such as testing regimes for international travel, or the conditions for activities such as hospitality and live events to return.
Running alongside the roadmap there must be clear parameters for determining what, and for how long, economic support measures remain in place. The plans should develop in lockstep, to ensure that key support measures taper away, without a cliff-edge, ensuring that support is progressively targeted on those sectors that remain closed for longest.
Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said:
“The Prime Minister has set out the initial parameters for reopening as a country, which was a big help for businesses. Clearly, the precise dates will be determined by data, so let’s use this time wisely to get the roadmap right together for when lockdown ends.
“There is huge appetite among businesses to help the Government create and deliver a roadmap out of lockdown that lasts, has national consensus and kickstarts our economic recovery as 2021 unfolds.
“A common framework with devolved administrations must also be possible and help to minimise differences in approach.
“Businesses are currently completely in the dark when planning for the weeks and months ahead and this is hindering investment. We can provide more clarity and do the prep work now to enable them to plan for reopening and growth.
“It’s clear that we will be entering a new normal even post-vaccination. We will have new workplace, testing and economic realities to live with.
“We’ve all learnt a lot in 2020 about what reopening looks like so let’s move now to a plan for 2021 that is detailed, practical and instils confidence.”
The CBI will also be writing to the devolved nations’ Governments.