It’s right that we listen to the voice of business, says Theresa May
“We want to ensure we are listening to the business voice because business provides the backbone of our economy,” she told the Times CEO summit in London.
“It’s right that we listen to the voice of business.”
Her remarks follow reports that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson erupted with a four-letter outburst when bosses’ fears about Brexit were raised at a meeting in Whitehall last week.
And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hit out at “completely inappropriate” threats from business at the weekend after Airbus warned of a possible relocation putting thousands of UK jobs at risk.
But in her speech, the Prime Minister told bosses: “You create the wealth and the jobs that provide the backbone of our economy.
Your innovation and creativity are vital ingredients in our success as a nation
“Your innovation and creativity are vital ingredients in our success as a nation.
“A Conservative government will always listen to your voice and back you every step of the way as you help grow our economy and create more good jobs.”
Mrs May told executives that securing the best possible Brexit deal with Brussels was central to her plan for building an economy that “truly works for everyone in society.”
She said: “You will each have conducted negotiations yourself, so you will know that they are never straightforward. They are complex and can generate uncertainty.
“But at every stage of the Brexit process we have sought to reduce uncertainty as much as possible.”
Mrs May said Parliament’s approval of her flagship EU (Withdrawal) Bill last week “will provide the legal certainty we need to ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit”.
She added: “To get the best possible Brexit deal, to build an economy that works for everyone, there is room at the top of tomorrow’s global economy for a country with our talents and ambition.
“You all have a vital role to play in getting Britain there.”
In her speech, Mrs May also confirmed her desire to invest more in public services after years of austerity but risked irritating some business leaders and Tory MPs by failing to mention raise the prospect of tax cuts as the economy grows.
“The United Kingdom is a great country with a bright future,” the Prime Minister said.
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“After years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people, we can now move forward with our balanced approach to the public finances that gets debt falling while also investing in our public services.
“The fruits of that labour have put us in the position to announce a major investment in our NHS – the public service we value most dearly – to secure it for the future.
“That will not just deliver better care, it will also ensure that businesses have a healthy and productive workforce to draw from.”
Mrs May declined to say whether she had rebuked Mr Johnson for his four-letter outburst about business when questioned about the reports at the summit.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
At Westminster, the Foreign Secretary did not deny the alleged remark.
Asked about the incident at Foreign Affairs Questions in the Commons, he said: “I don’t think anybody could doubt the passionate support of this Government for business, and it may be that I have from time to time expressed scepticism about some of the views of those who profess to speak up for business.”
Both the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors expressed concern about the Government’s relations with business yesterday.
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Facts ignored today mean jobs lost tomorrow.
“It is firms who employ people, understand business risk and have the best insight into how the UK can grow.
“Their evidence is not inconvenient, it is essential to avoid an ideological approach to Brexit that could harm British prosperity.”
Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, added: “Business will always be a critical friend to whoever is in government.
“Their concerns should be listened to, not dismissed, by politicians. The message from business is simple – less antagonism and more pragmatism.”