Investment ‘flooding out’ of areas such as technology over Brexit, says CBI

‘Surely, surely, we can do better than this,’ says UK’s business lobby group

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in London. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May addresses delegates at the annual Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference in London. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

 

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of UK business group CBI, said on Monday that companies were investing in preparing for a no deal Brexit rather than in new goods or products, and that investment was “flooding out” of the right areas like technology.

British politicians are engaged in a high-stakes game of risk over Brexit which could lead to an accidental no deal, the head of Britain’s main business lobby, the CBI, said on Monday, at the group’s annual conference.

“While other countries are forging a competitive future, our nerve centre here, Westminster, seems to be living in its own narrow world,” said Ms Fairbairn.

“It seems to be playing a high-stakes game of risk, where the outcome could be an accidental no-deal. Surely, surely, we can do better than this.”

Ms Fairbairn said the draft withdrawal agreement was “not perfect, but it is hard-won progress”.

“Business would have liked more certainty about frictionless trade in the future. [but ]it takes the cliff-edge off the table. . . and that is why this is such an opportunity.”

She said companies were spending money stockpiling goods on both sides of the English Channel, jobs were going out of the country, and investment was being diverted from regions like the north-east to eastern Europe.

“It’s a pattern across the country,” she said.

Addressing immigration, Ms Fairbairn said “what has been proposed won’t work for the UK’s economy”.

Theresa May, the UK’s prime minister, had made control of immigration the centre piece of her address to the conference.

In an implicit swipe at the Labour party, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn who addressed the conference in the afternoon, she said the answer to Britain’s economic challenges was not to “resurrect old failed ideologies from the past”.

Neither business nor government can do it on their own

“When nationalisation was last tried in the 1970s it ushered in one of the darkest periods in our country’s economic history,” she said.

- Reuters/FT