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Revitalizing UK's Global Trade Post-Brexit: A Strategic Vision by CBI


Michael Chen

June 3, 2024 - 23:25 pm


Bolstering Business: The CBI's Vision for Post-Brexit Trading and Investment

As political machinations churn ever closer to the United Kingdom's next general election set for July 4, the Confederation of British Institute (CBI) is putting forth a strong case aimed at the future UK leaders to rectify trade frictions and harness international investments to jumpstart economic growth. Amidst the growing cries for political clarity, Rain Newton-Smith, CEO of the leading business lobby group, has been vociferous in her call for a "bold pitch" that would seduce international investors and simultaneously promote stronger ties with the European Union.

Anti-Brexit campaigners wave the European Union (EU) flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson travels to Brussels for dinner with Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday as both sides seek to save Brexit trade negotiations. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg, Bloomberg

Newton-Smith urged that the moment is ripe to rethink and reengineer the current process of conducting business, especially concerning the existing trading nuisances that burden companies. As Newton-Smith elucidates, the scheduled review of the UK-EU trade deal in 2026 presents a golden opportunity to critically assess and attenuate the trading constraints hampering businesses, thus ameliorating the overall trade landscape.

Trade and Politics: The Election and Brexit

In the throes of electoral battle, both the governing Conservatives and the polling forerunners, the Labour Party, are actively courting the business community. Each strives to be perceived as the true ally of trade and commerce, yet they cautiously skirt around the contentious topic of Brexit to avoid estranging staunch supporters of the UK's split from the EU.

"What's important in this general election campaign, and we'll see the manifestos next week, is that they reflect some of the needs of businesses and that whoever is in charge really thinks about how we drive investment in the UK," Newton-Smith stated, expressing the anticipation and hope residing within the CBI as political parties are soon to unveil their economic blueprints.

A Strained Relationship with the EU

While the Trade and Cooperation Agreement inked by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was celebrated for maintaining tariff and quota-free exports to the EU after the commencement of new trading directives in 2021, the sobering reality has left many firms languishing under the weight of onerous custom checks and safety verifications.

The CBI's call for enhanced export and investment policies signifies an acute awareness of the complexities faced by businesses and underscores the necessity of a renewed trade relationship with the EU. The assertion echoes a broader sentiment wherein industries are vocal about the dire need for a recalibration of the current trade framework.

Stance of the Labour Leader

Labour leader Keir Starmer has publicly affirmed his intention to seek alignment with the EU concerning food and agricultural products, a move that he envisages as a boon to the trade sector should he ascend to the role of the prime minister. Yet, he remains inflexible on the issues of rejoining the single market and reintroducing freedom of movement across the UK-EU divide, a stance reflecting a delicate balance between economic engagement and national sovereignty concerns.

The CBI's Agenda and Ambitions

The coming election presents a crucial moment for British businesses, who yearn for a comprehensive revamp of the nation's trade and investment playbook. Beyond the critique and suggestions, the CBI has emphatically recommended the inception of a "Brand Britain" strategy that espouses a new trade and investment strategy alongside a robust plan aiming for net-zero emissions.

Furthermore, the organization advocates for a tax milieu that augments investment and the expansion of tax-free occupational health support. According to Newton-Smith, such strategic initiatives are paramount to not only promoting wellness in the workplace but also preempting and mitigating long-term illness among the workforce.

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The UK's Talent Conundrum

A pain point that Newton-Smith has highlighted is the talent recruitment hurdle faced by businesses. Particularly, the recent hike in the salary threshold for skilled worker visas—from a reasonable £26,200 to a prohibitive £38,700—has impinged on various sectors, including the realm of academia. Newton-Smith portrays universities as the linchpins of the UK's economy, praising their dual function as both prestigious educational institutions and pivotal innovators within the nation's economic ecosystem.

The CBI, conscious of the symbiotic relationship between education and industry, has expressed a desire for mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the UK, the EU, and the United States. Such an initiative, they believe, can expand the pool of talent accessible to British enterprises and academic institutes alike.

Looking Across the Atlantic

A nascent vision takes shape as the CBI casts its gaze across the Atlantic, advocating for a transatlantic synergy that would further infuse dynamism into the UK's trade and professional engagement. With a clarion call for recognition of professional credentials between the UK and the US, the opportunities for enhanced cooperation and mutual growth appear boundless.

In conclusion, as the UK grapples with the economic ramifications of its departure from the EU and the sectors adapt to a new reality, the CBI remains a stalwart champion of both retrospective and forward-looking dialogue. The aim is clear: to surmount hurdles and carve out a thriving economic landscape defined by resilient trade bonds and invigorated investment.

Source: Bloomberg - CBI calls for better UK-EU trade relations

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