Business, Or CBI, In A Swamp?

Talk about inflammatory language!

This time the hot words come, yet again, from the CBI’s director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn rather than warring politicians. “CBI boss goes to war with Boris over No Deal Brexit: Business leader triggers outrage by claiming firms will be mired in a swamp”.

Fairbairn, who as head of the CBI represents 190,000 companies including giant firms on the FTSE 100, was painted as one of the protagonists of so-called Project Fear in the EU referendum campaign after warning that Brexit would cost the economy £100billion. Bollocks!

Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker MP

said ‘This is a gross attempt by the CBI to intervene in the Conservative party conference. It’s time to start listening not to the voice of big business, but the entrepreneurial section of business where we’ll soon find there are plenty of enthusiasts for leaving the EU on time”.

Veteran City investor Jon Moulton said ‘Fairbairn has been a firm Remainer throughout, so there’s no doubt of the intent of her statements”.

“Whether she intended to or not, Fairbairn has poured more oil on to the Brexit fire with her claim that it’s a big myth that firms can be ready for No Deal without damage to the economy. She also said that it is another myth that No Deal would mean the end of uncertainty for business, adding that ‘businesses are just beyond disillusion now with the political brinkmanship that is going on and the looming risk of No Deal’. There are two reasons why Fairbairn was wrong. First, to strike such an incendiary tone at such a delicate time, and second in her assessment of the impact on the economy.

“One would think the ambassador for big business would be more subtle than to use Project Fear-style language while the Government is engaged in negotiations with the EU. If there were a time for the CBI to stay quiet and be seen to be backing the Prime Minister in his efforts, it is now.

“Anything other than giving that impression hands the EU even more ammunition. Fairbairn is also incorrect in her assessment that all businesses are ‘beyond disillusion’ over what is going on. Revised Office for National Statistics’ GDP growth figures out yesterday for the second quarter show the contrary. Growth was a smidgen higher at 1.3 per cent than forecast, and the third quarter will show modest growth again. What we are not in, is the recessionary territory many had been predicting.

“If Fairbairn took to the open roads, she would see that corporate life is doing rather nicely. Jaguar Land Rover has just opened its £500million state-of-the-art centre for electric and self-drive cars. The complex in Warwickshire is a massive one, the size of 480 football pitches, and employs 13,000 engineers. Call that disillusionment? If there is a UK problem, it’s that we have a shortage of engineers.

“Over the last few days alone, several other new investments have been announced. China’s giant Geely is investing £100million in the Lotus factory in Hethel, Norfolk. The plant employed 150 new engineers last year, and plans to take on more as it positions Lotus to rival Porsche.

“German-owned Rolls-Royce motor cars has just taken on the biggest ever cohort of apprentices at its Goodwood plant while hundreds of jobs have been created over the last year to meet booming demand.

“Catalent Pharma is investing £22million in a facility in Swindon with 100 jobs, while the Ilika battery-maker is building a facility in Hampshire for developing solid-state batteries.

“German-owned Craemer Group has started work on a £25million factory for plastics injecting moulding in Telford – its second plant – with hundreds of jobs.

“Sweden’s Nilorn is opening a labels manufacturer for the fashion industry, in North Yorkshire. Disillusionment? I could go on.

“It’s only fair to say that business investment is down. British companies are also investing less overseas. But this is as much due to the weaker global economy and trade wars as Brexit. It would also be petty to pretend there are no risks in either a deal, or a clean-break scenario.  There are many. Here’s an example of the trickier issues that businesses face, issues that are particularly poignant for the UK’s £64billion life science sector, one of our most dynamic industries. This is the impact that third-country status will have on a UK company’s abilities to conduct clinical research in the EU. Post-Brexit, UK firms must set up as a legal entity in an EU country to meet the bloc’s requirements.

“Not only is this a financial burden for the many young start-ups in this sector but it is also a logistical one. But guess what? One such start-up has found a way around the issue. Its EU partner has offered to register as a legal entity on its behalf.

“There are always solutions. Which is why the CBI’s persistent scare mongering helps no one. Whatever anyone wants to tell you, it is not uncertainty over Brexit that is driving businessmen and women, and the rest of us, around the twist. Uncertainty is an integral part of life. Its precariousness drives the creativity that propels mankind to its greatest innovations. John Maynard Keynes described it best with his ‘animal spirits’.”

Fairbairn should keep her stupid “remoan” remarks to herself and drain her own swamp!

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