November 19, 2018

Brexit business impact: UK is losing out on investment, says CBI Director General

By Lucy Ingham

The Brexit business impact is seeing a loss of investment for British companies, according to Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Talking today at the CBI’s conference in London, Fairbairn said that British businesses had seen significant negative impacts from Brexit, including a loss of investment to mainland Europe.

“Investment that would have come here has not come here,” she said.

“It is a pattern across the country, and that investment today creates jobs tomorrow.”

Business is, she said, seeing “jobs taken out of the country”.

She also said that British companies are now stockpiling and investing significant working capital to store goods both in the UK and mainland Europe in order to hedge against continued uncertainty.

“I think that the contingency planning has just accelerated,” she said.

Brexit business impact to worsen in no-deal scenario

Addressing Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Fairbairn argued that while the proposal “isn’t perfect”, it does prevent the no-deal scenario that would worsen the Brexit business impact.

“The crucial thing it does is it takes that cliff edge off the table; a no-deal Brexit,” she said.

“It isn’t perfect, but it’s a compromise, and this is a point where we all have to compromise.

“This does not give certainty, but it is significantly better than stepping off that cliff next March.”

Towards frictionless trade

For British businesses, Fairbairn argued that the goal was frictionless trade, which she said the agreement made possible in the future.

“It does chart a route to frictionless trade, and business has been entirely consistent in saying that’s what it wants,” she said.

“This is a compromise that protects us from some of the worst outcomes and charts a path to decent deals in the future.”

However, she was keen to stress that the so-called Canada deal was not a solution businesses wanted to see pursued.

“A Canada deal would just not deliver frictionless trade. It just would not,” she said.

“It would be very damaging. This needs to be a bespoke deal.”

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