Brexit agreement plea
CBI chief to politicians: ‘listen to business voters’
CBI president John Allan will today back the Prime Minister’s draft Brexit plan and urge politicians to listen to warnings from firms in their constituencies about the damage being caused by continued wrangling over the deal.
Mr Allan (pictured), addressing 1,500 business leaders at his organisation’s annual conference, will say the draft withdrawal agreement “isn’t perfect” but ask for it to be given a chance for the sake of the economy.
However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will reject his plea and tell the conference that the government’s EU withdrawal agreement is “a botched, worst-of-all-worlds deal”.
Mr Corbyn will say that it has left people “anxious” and will outline Labour’s alternative plan for a “sensible jobs first Brexit”.
He will criticise the Government for spending two years negotiating a bad deal that will “leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say over our future”.
In what is likely to herald another fractious week, Mr Corbyn may face one of his toughest tasks convincing Brexit-weary business leaders that he has a more workable plan.
The CBI president will say the draft agreement is “not perfect, but we’re trying to reach a deal that respects the referendum and minimises the damage to our economy.”
He will note how ambassadors, MPs, MEPs and heads of state he has met since becoming CBI president five months ago have had to compromise in reaching the deal.
Speaking for business leaders, Mr Allan will say the draft agreement “opens a route to a long-term trade arrangement and unlocks transition – the very least that companies need to prepare for Brexit.
“And most importantly, it avoids the wrecking ball that would be a no-deal departure.”
“Eighty per cent of firms have already cut or postponed investment because of the risk of a no-deal exit.
He will list several examples of lost investment as a result of growing uncertainty owing to Brexit, including a life sciences firm in the North West that has cut almost all investment in the UK – switching it instead to Germany and China.
“I’ve heard a Northern Irish tech firm that has stopped winning contracts because their aerospace customers are worried about Brexit. And a construction firm says it now costs an extra £20,000 to build a house, due to a shortage of materials and labour since Brexit.
“So our message to the politicians is this – listen to the businesses in your constituencies – and everyone who depends upon them.”
Jeremy Corbyn: facing a tough audience (pic: Terry Murden)
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed SNP MPs will vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal rather than abstain on the vote in the House of Commons.
She said it would be “deeply irresponsible” for any MPs to endorse the prime minister’s agreement. She will be heading to London to talk to opposition parties about developing a consensus around a new plan.
Prime minister Theresa May will urge business leaders to back her agreement when she addresses the CBI conference before Mr Corbyn outlines his alternative plan which includes:
– A new comprehensive and permanent customs union, with a British say in future trade deals, to support businesses and jobs and ensure no hard border in Northern Ireland.
– A guarantee that Britain country doesn’t fall behind the EU in workers’ rights, or protections for consumers and the environment. Brexit must not be an excuse for a race to the bottom in protections or rights at work.
– A strong single market relationship that allows British business continued access to European markets for both goods and services – while also ensuring Britain has the powers to support public services and industry and transform the economy in all regions and nations.