As the nation goes to the polls for the general election, firms can air their concerns about the future with little fear of a backlash this time
The general election is a chance to influence the detailed terms of Brexit – and business leaders need to have their say, according to the IoD’s chairman, Lady Barbara Judge.
“Businesses have to know who can come here to work, from where and for how long,” she said after Theresa May named 8 June as polling day. “At the moment we don’t even know whether the rights of EU citizens already in the UK, or those of UK citizens living in the EU, will be guaranteed.”
Judge also observed that the current government had yet to state “firm plans on the extent to which UK regulators will continue to agree common rules and standards with their EU counterparts; whether our universities will be able to bid for EU research funds after Brexit; or whether we will seek to remain part of trade deals signed with non-EU countries. These are all key concerns for businesses. Companies should not shy away from expressing their views, but some are still bruised from the referendum, when they were labelled doomsayers for voicing their concerns.”
Election debates lacking “the opinions of the country’s wealth creators cannot possibly give voters a full view of issues at stake for our economic future”, Judge argued, stressing that employers should feel free to speak their minds, given that parliament has removed any doubt that the UK will secede.
“Getting those opinions across is easier now that Article 50 has been triggered and we’re leaving. Arguing for a good deal is ‘talking Britain up’, not down,” she said. “Another potential benefit is a question of process.” The next government, Judge said, “will be much freer to negotiate if it is not conducting Brexit talks in the shadow of an oncoming election”.
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