19 November 2018

  |  CBI Press Team

News

The Prime Minister addresses #CBI2018

2,000 business leaders crowded the room at the CBI Annual Conference to hear Theresa May talk about Brexit – and her vision for the UK economy.

The Prime Minister addresses #CBI2018

Recognising the level of concern in the room, the Prime Minister “got right to it” and explained why she thought the Withdrawal Agreement was a good one.

“I have always had a very clear sense of the outcomes I wanted to deliver for people in these negotiations,” she said. “Control over our borders, by bringing an end to free movement, once and for all. Control of our money, so we can decide for ourselves how to spend it, and can do so on priorities like the NHS. Control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the United Kingdom and ensuring that our laws are made and enforced here in this country. Getting us out of those EU programmes that do not work in our interests, like the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. And that is exactly what we are going to deliver.”

She also took the time to focus on post-Brexit immigration as a big worry for business, arguing she wanted a system that works for business, but that it “must also command confidence of the public”.

A new relationship

“Now we have agreed the Withdrawal Agreement it is important that we focus on the new relationship we want to build with the EU,” May continued. “And that new relationship must set us on the path to a more prosperous future. To do that, it needs to work for jobs right across our economy. Because we are not talking about political theory, but the reality of people’s lives and livelihoods.

“Jobs depend on us getting this right.”

On goods, she emphasised the importance of maintaining frictionless trade with the EU – because “while the world is changing fast, our geography is not”.

On services, she stressed the need for a more ambitious trading relationship than any existing free trade agreement, because “the UK is not just a European hub, but a global hub for service – and our future success depends on us continuing to be so”.

Business as a force for good

Theresa May also talked about making the most of opportunities over which business has more control. Highlighting low unemployment figures and the difference having a job can make, she said: “It is why starting a business, growing a business, and keeping it thriving and successful are some of the most socially responsible things you can do in life.”

At a time when people are questioning whether free markets and an open trading economy can work for everyone in society, she added that business needed “to do more to win that argument”. She called on them to “step up to demonstrate that you truly have a stake in the success of this country”, particularly by investing in training.

By increasing investment in R&D, business can help the UK become the ideas factory of the world, she added.

But importantly, May said that government wanted to work in partnership with business “every step of the way”.

“We all believe in business as a force for good – and I want everyone here to work with me to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.”