“Brexit means Brexit – and we’re going to make a success of it”
Theresa May’s words on 31 August may have been mocked in some quarters but the UK business community is committed to making the best of the risks and opportunities Brexit will throw at the UK, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which published its ‘Making a Success of Brexit’ report yesterday.
The report is the result of a detailed consultation exercise undertaken by the CBI across every sector of the UK economy and highlights the key considerations including, in particular, the complex sectoral interconnectedness of the economy and the essential role of dialogue between industry from all sectors and government.
As Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, says:
“The modern UK economy is ever more interconnected. Legislation in one sector can have a knock-on effect in many others. For example, any business that handles data or has an online presence can be affected by future digital regulations, not just technology companies.
“The CBI will work closely with the Government to deliver an outcome that helps to meet the needs of firms throughout the UK, building a post-Brexit economy that spreads prosperity to all.
“Difficult choices will have to be taken. Business’ responsibility is to ensure government is informed by the best information to make these choices.”
The six common principles
The key achievement of the CBI’s consultation exercise and report is to lay out six common principles to guide the UK-EU negotiations which, it is hoped, will seek the best possible deal for the whole economy. Every sector will be affected by the UK’s exit in some way, and while all agree on the six principles for leaving the EU, some prioritise different aspects over others.
The common principles are as follows:
A barrier-free relationship with our largest, closest and most important trading partner
A clear plan for regulation that gives certainty in the short-term, and in the long-term balances influence, access and opportunity
A migration system which allows businesses to access the skills and labour they need to deliver growth
A renewed focus on global economic relationships, with the business community at their heart
An approach that protects the social and economic benefits of EU funding
A smooth exit from the EU, avoiding a cliff-edge that causes disruption
Three key steps to providing certainty to business
Beyond a headline plan, the government has said that it will not be providing a running commentary on the negotiations, which has been broadly accepted by business according to the report. However, the report recommends three key steps that the government should take to help provide greater certainty to business as well as business’ role as a collaborative partner of government:
Step 1: Partnership
Government must consult more widely than ever across the UK’s business community, to companies of all sectors, all sizes and from all parts of the UK.
The business community should step up to help, with individual companies providing views and experts at sectoral trade associations offering specialist advice and data.
Step 2: Opportunity
Whilst the business community is, of course, preoccupied about the UK’s new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world this is not the only priority. Firms need to get hiring, training, innovating and expanding and the UK government should be taking ambitious steps now to put the UK in the best position possible after the UK leaves the EU.
The business community should aid this process, offering the big ideas on skills, tax, innovation and infrastructure that can spread prosperity to all.
Step 3: Evidence
The UK government needs to comprehensively understand the interconnected nature of the UK economy, both between sectors and between the UK and the rest of the world. The government will need to carefully assess its decisions and their impacts on the whole economy.
It is critical that decisions are not made about industries in isolation. Business should do all it can to provide evidence and insight that government cannot gather on its own.
CBI members understand that the negotiation process the government is about to undertake will be be hugely complex and, at times, fraught. It is, of course, unprecedented. The CBI reports that UK business is committed to playing a constructive role and encourages government to embrace this “partnership, opportunity and evidence” approach so, through collaboration, business and the government can get the best deal for the UK.
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