6 September 2018

  |  CBI Scotland

Press release

CBI chief calls time on 'no deal' Brexit in speech to Scottish business leaders

Director General Carolyn Fairbairn gives a keynote speech at the CBI Scotland Annual Dinner 2018

CBI chief calls time on 'no deal' Brexit in speech to Scottish business leaders

Speaking at her third CBI Scotland Annual Dinner at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will tell an audience of Scottish business leaders that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is “simply not an option” and poses “catastrophic risks” to the economy.

She will call on Scottish businesses to stand up and be counted on the key issues of the day, stating that the evidence and clarity of thought they bring to difficult issues in turbulent times can lead to better outcomes for both the economy and society.

Carolyn will focus on two key aspects of Brexit: using the Government’s proposals for post-Brexit trade as a baseline to secure the best possible deal for Britain and the importance of building a post-Brexit immigration system that combines public confidence with ability to attract the people and skills companies need.

Speaking before an audience of hundreds of Scotland’s senior business leaders, the CBI Director-General will also praise the achievements of Scottish firms and outline an optimistic view for Scotland’s future economy.

On Brexit progress and the influence of business, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, is expected to say:

“We’re now just 6 weeks away from a summit that will shape lives across Scotland and the UK for generations.

Now, firms don’t take political decisions – it’s not our job.

But we can provide the evidence to help good political decisions to get taken

And with the support of our members …

…that’s what we’ve been doing.

A year ago, we called for a status quo transition period.

To avoid a cliff edge for firms.

And the government listened. So did Brussels.

Providing we avoid no-deal…

…we will have a transition period.

Then there’s the Chequers Proposal.

If you believed what you read in the papers, you’d assume it is dead as a dodo.

I don’t think you should believe everything you read in the papers.

I’ll be the first to say – it’s not perfect.

But it does have the makings of a workable compromise

And has many of the ingredients that we know firms want and we have campaigned for.

We know how much Scotland values smooth trade and open borders.

We’ve made that very clear.

And Chequers does propose a free trade area for goods with a common rulebook.

That’s real progress and will be welcomed by firms across the EU as well.

I will be in Brussels with Michel Barnier next week and with business groups across Europe making that case.

Until we have a clear way forward, uncertainty will continue."

On the prospect of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, Carolyn will say:

“There’s another area where we are not done with speaking out.

And that’s on the catastrophic risks of a no-deal exit.

Because that’s what it would be for Scotland.

A catastrophe.

Delays to just-in-time delivery meaning that Scotland’s food exports would not reach markets in peak condition.

Barriers to talent stifling Scotland’s professional services firms.

And Scotland’s status as fintech power put at risk by new regulations on data.

No-deal is just not an option.

Not for the UK, not for Scotland, and not for the EU.

And there’s a very short window to achieve a deal.

So we will be continuing to make the case for a sensible and pragmatic way forward – here and across the Channel.”

On the value of partnership between business and government, Carolyn will say:

“Last year the CBI launched a landmark report.

We called it Pursuing Prosperity.

It looked at how productivity could be lifted across every one of Scotland’s regions.

And it was very good to see many of them reflected in the Scottish budget last year.

And Tuesday’s Programme for Government.

More money for transport and digital infrastructure.

Trade envoys to champion Scottish goods and services.

Backing the exporters of the future.

Support for upskilling and retraining.

And on business rates, we called on the Scottish Government to go beyond the recommendations in the Barclay Review.

By making the switch from RPI to CPI.

And they listened.

Real partnership between government and business has never been more important.”

On a post-Brexit immigration system, Carolyn is expected to say:

“Scotland has a brilliant and talented workforce.

But look at the stats, and it’s also a shrinking workforce.

Demographics are not in Scotland’s favour.

Add Brexit uncertainty and a brain-drain to the South East and overseas.

And you have a potent mix of problems.

The skills shortages are biting.

Not in the future, not soon. Right now.

So last month the CBI called for a new immigration system.

A system that earns public trust…

…while allowing business to attract the people they need.

A system that’s open……but controlled, too.

And we are clear it must work for Scotland.

Some have asked - do we need a devolved solution for Scotland?

It’s a fair question.

But the businesses I’ve spoken to say “not right now”.

Let’s get it right for the whole UK.

The better the outcome we get, the less need for variation across the UK.

And the less companies need worry about doubled up systems and extra red tape.”