The next prime minister needs to repair the reputation of the UK among international investors and “back business” again, according to a speech by the president of the CBI employers group directed at the Tories aiming to become the new party leader.
John Allan will call on the next government to take “an unashamedly pro-enterprise course” to work more closely with business. There has been “growing business frustration — and frankly, anger — with the Westminster stand-off in recent times”, he will say, which has “chipped away at our country’s reputation for stability, pragmatism and reliability”.
The speech in London on Monday is the latest attempt by business leaders to influence the thinking of the next prime minister as the UK enters the next crucial phase of negotiations ahead of the Brexit deadline in October.
Some of the leading candidates, including the favourite Boris Johnson, have said that the UK could leave the EU without a withdrawal agreement, which has worried businesses given the possible disruption to supply chains and their ability to sell goods and services overseas.
The Eurosceptic Mr Johnson caused concern among business groups after reports that he responded to concerns about a hard Brexit with the words “fuck business” last year when foreign secretary, but has since struck a more conciliatory tone in his campaign to become the next prime minister.
At the launch of his Conservative leadership bid last week, Mr Johnson said that he was the “only politician who [as London mayor] was willing to stick up for financial services”. “We are willing to encourage the tech wizards and the shopkeepers and the taxi drivers and, yes, the bankers as well,” he said.
Mr Allan’s remarks carry a similarly broad appeal, saying that “whether you’re a small high-street retailer or a high-end manufacturer hoping to sell in markets here, Europe and all over the world . . . that feelgood factor has been absent for too long”.
He will add: “If the Conservative party wants to claim the mantle of the party of business now is the time to show it. At such a decisive point in our country’s history, if not now, then when?”
Mr Allan will make clear that businesses will also need to play their part, however, to deliver prosperity that pays for taxes and creates jobs. “Our relationship is symbiotic. We succeed together or we fail together.”
Referring to the government’s ambition to deliver a net zero carbon economy by 2050, Mr Allan will say: “Business is squarely behind this — and it’s the one [issue] where we all need to put our shoulders to the wheel to achieve.”