Business leaders are reporting back from their meeting with Business Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this week.
The emergency summit was called to calm business fears over the immediate impact of the EU referendum vote, and was attended by, among others, the CBI, British Chambers of Commerce and the FSB.
Dr Adam Marshall, acting director of the BCC wrote in a letter to the PM that the vote would have significant implications for businesses and for the economy as a whole, and urged swift action to clarify the impact on a range of issues.
“There is an urgent need for clarity on airport expansion, energy generation, house building, the planned apprenticeship levy, reform of business rates, devolution, and the future of the foundation industries that underpin manufacturing,” Dr Marshall said. “These and other decisions are urgently required to support firms that are working tirelessly and optimistically to deliver sales, profits, and prosperity despite facing skills gaps, export uncertainty, and a markedly softer economy.
“The business communities we represent are understandably disappointed that Westminster has descended into a deep political post-mortem – rather than work to secure the best possible outcome from the negotiation and transition that lie ahead.
“As you – and your eventual successor – consider these concerns, we propose that the government convene a new, broad-based Business Taskforce on Europe to ensure that business priority issues form a key part of both domestic policy and EU exit negotiations during this critical transition.
“We are keen to ensure that the whole range of business concerns and considerations are taken into account in the negotiation to come.”
For its part, the CBI echoed the call for clarity and also urged the government to reassure the millions of EU citizens currently working in the UK. According the DG Carolyn Fairbairn, who was present at the meeting, “Time and time again came the repeated call that government needed to recognise how scared EU migrants that are working in this country feel about the situation they now find themselves in, worried about their jobs and the lives they have made here. They need security and they need reassurance – and they need it fast.”
She closed by saying that the business world is used to dealing with uncertainty. “It will adapt. It will show it can find opportunities. And it can help the government over the weeks and months ahead. The leaders in the room shared a sense of resolve. But we are a long way off having a plan and real leadership. This is what business needs.”
Finally, the FSB’s national chair Mike Cherry said his attendance on behalf of SMEs was useful: I again stressed the need for immediate action to reassure small businesses so they can continue to trade and do business. Smaller firms need simple access to the single market, the ability to hire the right people, continued EU funding for key schemes and clarity on the future regulatory framework.”
“When the negotiations start, FSB will be a constructive partner and strong voice for small businesses, pushing for swift clarity on these crucial points.”