CBI calls for an end to political paralysis as it sets out 2020 agenda

Next year will define the UK for a generation, and, whoever is in power after the election, their priority must be to work with business to provide better answers to the challenges facing the UK. This was the message from CBI director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, speaking at the business group's conference in London today.

“We simply cannot afford another wasted year of political paralysis, indecision and distraction while productivity and investment suffer,” she said.

The next government must set about tackling climate change, education and inequality, the group insisted. Stressing the importance of building long-term solutions to long-term problems, its 2020 manifesto outlines steps its believes the government should take to unlock the UK’s competitiveness. These include addressing day-to-day concerns that have been neglected, including unreformed business rates, fixing the broken apprenticeship levy and completing vital infrastructure projects including HS2 and Heathrow.

The group also called for a new immigration system which provides access to labour and skills, committing to raise UK R&D expenditure to at least 2.4% of GDP by 2027 with a timeframe for increasing this to 3% over the longer-term.

“The strength of the business-government relationship has underpinned the UK’s success for many decades," Fairbairn added. “It has driven progress at home, from the building of the Channel Tunnel to the development of renewable energy to address climate change. It has helped to make the UK the leading destination in Europe for foreign investors, with total investment worth $1.9 trillion and supporting millions of jobs.

“But this relationship is being questioned. Too many people have lost faith in a system they don’t see working for them. In response, ideologies from both the left and right have emerged to fill the gap, pushing debate to extremes and offering superficial fixes to complex problems.

“And we are seeing the results. Public faith in our politicians and institutions continues to erode, the historic partnership between business and government is under strain. Business investment has fallen for 18 months and productivity growth remains stubbornly sluggish. Confidence in the UK is faltering. This cannot continue. But it is within our power to change it.

“All this can be achieved by securing a Brexit deal that protects our economy. Firms large and small are clear that leaving the EU with a deal is the best way forward.”

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