Brexit and immigration key to boosting UK growth, says CBI

Confederation of British Industry boss will offer government solutions to boost country's flagging economy

Tony Danker, director general of the Confederation of British Industry. Reuters
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Use immigration to solve worker shortages and end arguments over Brexit in a bid to boost growth, Confederation of British Industry chief Tony Danker will tell politicians on Monday.

Mr Danker, the group's director general, will use his speech at the CBI annual conference in Birmingham to praise some “incredibly welcome” announcements in last week’s autumn statement, while also warning the UK must go further to solve years of stagnating growth.

Senior politicians are expected to attend the business body's two-day conference, days after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled £25 billion of tax rises in a budget designed to restore market confidence in the UK after former prime minister Liz Truss’s disastrous attempt.

The move from massive tax cuts to steep tax rises has been criticised by some on the Conservative back benches, raising speculation of a rebellion by MPs over some measures.

“The painful reality about growth is that it can’t be stimulated overnight," Mr Danker will tell the conference, with the UK said to be already in recession. "That’s what the mini-budget got wrong.

“Across-the-board tax cuts. Immediate demand stimulus. Relying on the old British strength, consumption, at the expense of the perennial British weakness, investment, has given growth a bad name.”

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Praising Mr Hunt for “staying the course” on projects designed to generate growth, such as the high-speed rail programme and the new nuclear power plant at Sizewell C, the CBI chief will also offer the government solutions to boost the flagging economy.

Mr Danker will also call on politicians to be “practical” about immigration, according to excerpts from his speech that were released early.

“Let’s have economic migration in areas where we aren’t going to get the people and skills at home any time soon. In return, let’s make those visas fixed term.”

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He will also urge reform of regulations and red tape.

“I know that some Conservative politicians today feel that this issue is the fault of Europe, Mr Danker will say.

"But the biggest regulatory barriers facing businesses today are based on British laws, created by a British parliament, and administered by British regulators.”

He is also expected to flag concerns over Brexit, namely the as-yet unresolved row with the EU about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Boris Johnson achieved a deal with the EU that allows us to continue to trade tariff and quota free with our biggest trading partner. There’s some good stuff in there. Currently locked up.

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“But still we argue over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Still we argue over sovereignty.

"Get round the table, do the deal, unlock the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

"I say to Brexiteers, the best guarantor of Brexit is an economy that grows. Its biggest risk is one that doesn’t.

“Now I know that some of these things will not be popular with politicians but while I have no problem with government taking tough choices to bring stability, I want them to also take tough choices for growth.”

Updated: November 21, 2022, 12:01 AM