General Election reaction: Business groups look foward to period of stability

December 13, 2019

Business organisations have welcomed the stability that the resounding Conservative General Election victory will bring – but question marks remain over the kind of Brexit deal a Boris Johnson-led government will strike.

Business West, the South West’s largest business group which runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the Bristol Initiative, also questioned how much funding for essential infrastructure projects would come to the region given the success of the Tories in the North. 

Its managing director Phil Smith, pictured right, said: “The general election result will give us a majority government for four or five years – and welcome stability. The rise of Conservatism in the North will mean a very different set of priorities to traditional Conservatism and a greater focus on inclusion and a different economic shape of our country.

“[Chancellor] Sajid Javid’s manifesto pledges will mean a big step up in infrastructure spending nationally, although day-to-day spending will remain tight. The big question remains as to whether our region gets its fair share, given the creaking state of much of our infrastructure.

“The precise outcome of Brexit will remain uncertain, but this will not be because of UK politics but due to the nature of UK-EU negotiations and what we want our future relationship to look like.”

He congratulated the West of England MPs who have been re-elected and welcomed those who take their seats for the first time.

“We look forward to working with them to ensure that our region’s businesses continue to thrive and contribute to growing prosperity for our people,” he said. 

The CBI said after three years of “gridlock” the Prime Minister had a clear mandate to govern and businesses were urging him to use it to rebuild confidence in the economy and “break the cycle of uncertainty”.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, pictured right, said: “Employers share the Prime Minister’s optimism for the UK and are ready to play a leading role. They can bring the innovation, investment and jobs for a new era of inclusive growth.

“The biggest issues of our times – from tackling climate change to reskilling the workforce for new technologies – can only be delivered through real partnership between government and business.”

She said the starting point must be rebuilding business confidence, and early reassurance on Brexit would be vital.

“Firms will continue to do all they can to prepare for Brexit, but will want to know they won’t face another no deal cliff-edge next year. Pro-enterprise policies on immigration, infrastructure, innovation and skills, will help relaunch the UK on the world stage.

“Despite recent challenges, the UK remains a great place to start and build a business. A new contract between enterprise and government can make the UK a global magnet for investment, powering higher productivity and living standards across the UK.”

Institute of Directors director general Jonathan Geldart, pictured below, said: “After years of parliamentary chaos, directors want to see a government that is clear-sighted about the challenges facing businesses, and ambitious, but realistic, in its response. 

“British companies have been resilient amid the confusion, but they are eager for some clarity now.

“Business leaders’ thoughts will immediately be turning to Brexit. For directors, ‘Get Brexit Done’ will only have meaning once the details of our long-term future relationship with the EU are clear, they need a framework to plan for the future from.”

The Prime Minister must resist the urge for arbitrary negotiating deadlines and should commit to a proper adjustment period that starts when businesses know the full detail of what changes they may be facing, he said.

“Our members have made clear that the content and shape of any new deal are much more important than simply the speed in getting there.

“On the domestic front, we must now see progress on the challenges that have been holding the economy back, from skills to infrastructure. Many directors will be waiting for action on manifesto commitments such as incentives for research and development investment and business rates reform.

“Meanwhile, there are still big question marks around the Conservatives’ plans on immigration and big-ticket infrastructure projects.”

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