Appeal for compromise

CBI chief: Brexit ‘folly’ risks plunging UK into economic crisis

John Allan: ‘a need for compromise’ (pic: Terry Murden)

CBI President John Allan tonight urged politicians to work together to achieve a Brexit deal and avoid a political crisis from becoming an economic one.

Mr Allan told Scottish members attending their annual dinner that “jobs and livelihoods are being recklessly overlooked” and contracts are being lost to overseas competitors while MPs continue to argue over Britain’s departure from the EU. 

He urged MPs to “come together, compromise, get a deal. Your entrenchment is folly at the expense of people’s livelihoods.

Addressing hundreds of business leaders at the Glasgow Hilton, he said: “Business has been clear: no-deal would do serious harm to our economy.

“We’ve heard it from businesses of all sizes, right across Scotland, and in every sector – manufacturing, services, education, tech. Each one faces uncertainty, risks to supply chains, yet-to-be-taken decisions on data, concerns about tariffs, or loss of talent. 

“And the reality is – the people most affected by an economic shock, or a recession will be those who are already struggling, whose jobs and livelihoods are being recklessly overlooked. 

We have a clear message: come together, compromise and get a deal.

– John Allan

“So as October approaches we will be talking to policymakers, and meeting politicians on all sides, with a clear message: come together, compromise and get a deal.

“And if it comes to extension, the business message is just as clear – any delay must make a difference. Another extension can’t be solely for the UK to debate with itself, but for the UK – and the EU – to come together. To work on solutions, instead of looking inwards.

“Because until a deal is agreed – contracts are being lost to overseas competitors, uncertainty is weighing on the economy and companies are diverting billions of pounds from productive investment to no deal preparations.

“Whatever happens next, any delay must have purpose and be used to rediscover a spirit of compromise in Westminster to stop a political crisis from becoming an economic one.”

Mr Allan, who shared the platform with Sir John Major, reiterated the importance of a post-Brexit immigration system.

“Yesterday the government clarified that EU nationals can continue to come here after a no deal with a gradual transition to a new, points-based system.

“It is hard won progress and will be reassuring for businesses – particularly here in Scotland where overseas workers have contributed so much. 

“But more importantly – it should be a sigh of relief for EU nationals who have long needed this clarity. 

“So what does business want next?

“First – we will be working with the Migration Advisory Committee to look at other countries’ points-based systems. 

“And in the longer term – putting forward the evidence for a system that supports Scotland’s economy. A system that welcomes international students allowing them time to find work after graduating.  And above all – a system that is flexible, that builds public trust, and that values contribution over salary. 

“We have an historic chance to get this right. Let’s not waste it.”

Mr Allan suggested business can play its part in alleviating poverty by encouraging greater engagement with schools.

“Regardless of Brexit, there are things the Scottish Government can do to help businesses here thrive.

“Ensuring no further tax divergence with the rest of the UK is just one way of ensuring Scotland remains an attractive place to live, work and stay. 

“This matters hugely, as tax receipts from businesses pay for public services which, combined with employment, can help lift people out of poverty.”

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