Busi­ness chief in Brexit ‘Plan B’ call

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - RICHARD BACHE [email protected]­plc.com

THE head of one of Bri­tain’s big­gest busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions used a visit to the West to urge the Govern­ment to re­veal its ‘Plan B’ if it loses the ‘mean­ing­ful’ Brexit vote on Tues­day.

CBI direc­tor gen­eral, Carolyn Fairbairn, was in the re­gion yes­ter­day and ad­dressed top busi­ness fig­ures at an event at the Bris­tol Old Vic theatre. She said it was crit­i­cal that the re­gion con­tin­ued to have ac­cess to skills and labour.

In her speech, she said the Govern­ment had to im­me­di­ately set out its plan to avert a ‘no-deal Brexit’ if it lost next week’s mean­ing­ful vote.

She said: “Whether you want to build an aero­plane, con­struct a nu­clear power sta­tion, an­i­mate a film or launch a yacht or satel­lite, busi­nesses here in the South West know how to suc­ceed.

“And it’s not just the di­ver­sity of South Western firms, it’s also about sheer weight of their knowl­edge. There’s so much to cel­e­brate here.

“But as much as I’d like to make this speech a Shake­spearean so­lil­o­quy about the South West, I can’t ig­nore that, at a na­tional level, things aren’t so rosy.”

She said a no-deal sce­nario could cause huge dam­age to the re­gion’s pros­per­ity.

Her re­marks came in the wake of a num­ber of blows to the UK’s manu- fac­tur­ing sec­tor this week, with car man­u­fac­tur­ing par­tic­u­larly at risk.

On Thurs­day, Jaguar Land Rover re­vealed thou­sands of jobs were at risk and Honda an­nounced a tem­po­rary six-day clo­sure of its plant at Swin­don in early April to mit­i­gate against the risk of Brexit chaos.

Yes­ter­day, fur­ther gloom hit the sec­tor, with re­ports of po­ten­tial job losses at Ford’s en­gine fac­tory at Brid­gend in South Wales emerg­ing.

Ms Fairbairn added: “The re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure an or­derly exit is now in Par­lia­ment’s hands. Each MP is demo­crat­i­cally cho­sen to safe­guard the se­cu­rity and pros­per­ity of our coun­try.

“And next week, they face a test. If they meet it with yet more brinkman­ship, the whole coun­try could face a no-deal, dis­or­derly Brexit.

“The eco­nomic con­se­quences would be pro­found, wide­spread and last­ing. GDP would de­cline by up to eight per cent, mean­ing less money for our pub­lic ser­vices and those who rely on them. Make no mis­take, no-deal can­not be ‘man­aged’.”

She said it was vi­tal the UK had ac­cess to over­seas labour post-Brexit. She added: “We rely on work­ers from abroad for so much – to har­vest our food, build our homes, care for us in our old age; to help us win new con­tracts, bring new skills, ideas and in­sight.

“As we leave the EU, our coun­try has an op­por­tu­nity – and a re­spon­si­bil­ity – to shape our own, in­de­pen­dent im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

“It must win pub­lic sup­port and in turn sup­port our econ­omy.”

The re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure an or­derly

exit is now in Par­lia­ment’s hands

CAROLYN FAIRBAIRN

An­thony Devlin

CBI direc­tor gen­eral Carolyn Fairbairn

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