Economy should be “front and centre” of Brexit talks, say businesses

Businesses are calling for a Brexit strategy rethink saying the previous hardline approach threatened the economy.

As the Tories try to cobble together a government with the help of the DUP, businesses have restated their call for the economy to be prioritised in Brexit talks. Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of business lobby group CBI, said the election outcome has given us “the opportunity to reset” Brexit thinking and prioritise the economy to get a better deal. Fairbairn noted that the “sometimes aggressive” positioning on both sides of the channel made it less likely to achieve a good deal. She also warned the likelihood of a “no deal” outcome threatened investment saying the impact of this was already “beginning to bite”.

The less likely a deal becomes, the harder it will be to recruit and retain the best and brightest from around the world, and the harder it will be to continue.

There is no question this is beginning to bite: a gradual, silent drip, drip, drip of lost investment and missed opportunity.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of CBI

That the economy should be prioritised was further highlighted with the release of the latest employment report by the ONS. Whilst employment remained high and unemployment low, real wage growth fell again as a result of higher inflation. Britons effectively have less money in their pockets. The ONS report shows that when adjusted for inflation, workers are earning less per week before tax and other deductions than February 2008.

Responding to the report, CBI’s director of employment and skills Neil Carberry said “politicians need to put the economy front and centre, create stability and ensure the EU negotiations get off to a positive start”. The CBI also restated its call for the government to grant the rights of EU citizens living in the UK to remain.

Single market & customs union should be put back on the table

The call for a Brexit strategy rethink has also been echoed by manufacturers’ organisation EEF. In a statement following the general election, the EEG said “access to the single market and a form of customs union, along with a suitable transition period” should be “firmly back on the table”.

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said “given we’ve just wasted a year, the government needs to move away from its previous rhetoric and start repairing relations with EU partners”. Scuoler added that business groups should be involved with trade negotiations, noting that this “is the model every other government involved in trade negotiations operates”.

Wise advice – however, we may have to wait a little longer whilst more time is wasted as the prime minister gets her government together.

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