CBI chief insists Brexit worries can be addressed

The head of Britain’s biggest business lobbying group has said there is time yet to clarify uncertainties ahead of the March deadline for formally triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Speaking yesterday outside the SNP conference in Glasgow – where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that consultations will begin next week on a second Scottish independence referendum – CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn acknowledged the increasingly complex political landscape in which businesses are operating.

The financial services sector is speaking with a single, strong voice

Carolyn Fairbairn

With a rapid timetable indicating an exit in spring 2019, clearer guidance on future access to skilled workers and barrier-free trade to the EU are needed as soon as possible.

Asked whether the CBI can achieve those aims in a tight timeframe, Fairbairn said it is possible.

“I think it is, if there is a real commitment to businesses gearing themselves up to be easy to deal with,” she said. “The financial services sector, for example, is speaking with a single, strong voice.”

While firms in every sector are concerned about free trade and free movement of skilled workers into and out of the UK, each also has specific issues related to Brexit.

For example, the airline industry is focused on whether it will remain part of the “open skies” agreement between the EU and the US, while passporting of financial services into the EU is a top priority for banks, insurers and their ilk.

The CBI intends to outline these sector-specific concerns in a report to be published later this year, Fairbairn said.

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