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“Don’t sleepwalk into a year of low growth and lost opportunities” – CBI chief warns ahead of election campaign

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Rain Newton-Smith tells business conference that political consensus not division can unlock investment and secure global growth prizes.   

Ahead of the Autumn Statement, and with a general election potentially just months away, CBI Chief Executive Rain Newton-Smith has issued a warning to UK politicians of all stripes that the country can’t afford for 2024 to be shaped by “low growth and lost opportunities.”   

Against a tough economic backdrop, and with businesses around the world bracing for another challenging year in 2024, Newton-Smith will urge UK party leaders to leverage political consensus on issues like boosting business investment, upgrading infrastructure, and incentivising R&D to tell a more positive growth story.  

To help the UK “regain its voice”, and set the economy on track for sustainable growth, the CBI has outlined three areas for immediate action: 

  • Enterprise: deliver an internationally competitive business environment – including making full expensing permanent to unlock business investment.  
  • Employment and education: mobilise the potential and productivity of the UK’s workforce – including helping to reduce economic inactivity and transforming the Apprenticeship Levy into a ‘skills challenge fund.’   
  • Green growth: realise the UK’s net zero growth opportunity – including promoting rapid investment in climate adaptation, clear direction on emissions reduction and following through on commitments to speed up planning and grid connections.   

Read the CBI’s full Autumn Statement submission here: The CBI’s 2023 Autumn Statement submission | CBI.   

Speaking at the CBI’s ‘General Election Countdown’ conference, Rain Newton-Smith will say:  

“The UK is a nation of storytellers. I say it honestly as the daughter of a writer and a philosopher. And I’m not just talking about William Shakespeare or Zadie Smith, or Dylan Thomas as the nation’s great storytellers when I do.   

“I mean innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. The people in this room. Each able to talk about ideas that sparked innovations and created businesses that have changed history and improved people’s lives.   

“But it does feel to me lately that the UK is a nation of storytellers who have lost their voice.   

“This isn’t surprising. It’s hard to know what to say – in the midst of so much terrible global conflict – when the world feels so uncertain. So much can feel out of our control.  

“On the economy, over the next two years, the IMF forecasts a slowdown in global growth. Here in the UK, persistent cost pressures and low growth continue to weigh us down.   

“But we can change this. We can reignite UK growth and opportunity and our pride on the international stage through action to lift business investment and skills. To help strengthen our public services. And to regain our leadership in green technologies, health innovation and financial services.  

“The potential is there – and our analysis backs this up – to tell a more positive UK story. To find our voice again.”  

On championing the UK and “regaining our voice”, Newton-Smith will say:  

“Despite all the division of recent years, there is a consensus around the need to deliver sustainable growth that improves people’s lives today, and those of future generations.  

“So, my call today to the Conservatives, to Labour – and every party campaigning in next year’s expected general election – is this: don’t let the story of 2024, and the decade to come, be a UK story of low growth and lost opportunities.  

“Work with us, with business, to make this the UK decade of sustainable growth and opportunity. That strengthens our resilience to challenges now and in the future.  

“Yes, elections are a moment for contrast and comparison – but economies thrive on consensus. So, let’s build momentum and confidence now by locking-in cross-party consensus where it already exists. 

“On tackling the economy’s productivity problem by boosting business investment through world-leading capital allowances. On fixing the foundations of our infrastructure by reforming the planning system to deliver a green transition. And on building a more resilient economy for the future by incentivising R&D spending.    

“These are just some of the areas where all parties agree.”   

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