Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Business world reacts to election result


Business leaders have been reacting to the results of yesterday's general election, which saw the Conservative Party returned with a majority. All were happy to see the uncertainty of a hung parliament averted, and many are now keen to see the threat of a no-deal Brexit addressed.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Restoring business, investor and consumer confidence – and firing up the economy – must now be the prime minister’s top priority.

“Campaign slogans must give way to a renewed focus on the details that matter. Our business communities need to see swift, decisive action to avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the EU and to tackle the barriers holding back investment and growth here in the UK.”

Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said: “Small business owners will be hoping that today’s clear result helps to bring stability back to the economy.

“In the coming days we will see a Queen’s Speech and steps towards leaving the EU next month. Amid this, small businesses the length and breadth of the UK will be looking to the new Government to achieve positive change for small firms in its first 100 days, not least with publication of a pro-business Budget in early February.

“This government needs to deliver a business-friendly Brexit. That means one that protects the three t’s: trade, talent and a proper transition. The third of those is absolutely critical. We have to avoid a scenario where we suddenly crash out of the EU with no time for small firms to prepare for what’s coming next.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: "Employers share the Prime Minister’s optimism for the UK and are ready to play a leading role. They can bring the innovation, investment and jobs for a new era of inclusive growth. The biggest issues of our times – from tackling climate change to reskilling the workforce for new technologies – can only be delivered through real partnership between government and business.

“The starting point must be rebuilding business confidence, and early reassurance on Brexit will be vital. Firms will continue to do all they can to prepare for Brexit, but will want to know they won’t face another no deal cliff-edge next year. Pro-enterprise policies on immigration, infrastructure, innovation and skills, will help relaunch the UK on the world stage.

“Despite recent challenges, the UK remains a great place to start and build a business. A new contract between enterprise and government can make the UK a global magnet for investment, powering higher productivity and living standards across the UK.”

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, which represents the recruitment sector, said: "Business confidence in the economy is at a low point and job creation is slowing as our research clearly shows. A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for jobs and must not be allowed to happen.

"The biggest challenge to growth is skills shortages. The nation’s productivity hinges on government’s ability to address this. One huge opportunity is to open up the apprenticeship levy to the millions of people who choose flexible work."

Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "After years of parliamentary chaos, directors want to see a government that is clear-sighted about the challenges facing businesses, and ambitious, but realistic, in its response.

"“Business leaders’ thoughts will immediately be turning to Brexit. For directors, ‘Get Brexit Done’ will only have meaning once the details of our long-term future relationship with the EU are clear, they need a framework to plan for the future from.

"The prime minister must resist the urge for arbitrary negotiating deadlines, and should commit to a proper adjustment period that starts when businesses know the full detail of what changes they may be facing.

“On the domestic front, we must now see progress on the challenges that have been holding the economy back, from skills to infrastructure. Many directors will be waiting for action on manifesto commitments such as incentives for R&D investment and business rates reform. Meanwhile, there are still big question marks around the Conservatives’ plans on immigration and big-ticket infrastructure projects.”

Locally, Business West's managing director Phil Smith said: "The general election result will give us a majority government for 4 or 5 years - and welcome stability. The rise of Conservatism in the North will mean a very different set of priorities to traditional Conservatism and a greater focus on inclusion and a different economic shape of our country.

"Sajid Javid's manifesto pledges will mean a big step up in infrastructure spending nationally, although day to day spending will remain tight. The big question remains as to whether our region gets its fair share, given the creaking state of much of our infrastructure.

"The precise outcome of Brexit will remain uncertain, but this will not because of UK politics but due to the nature of UK-EU negotiations and what we want our future relationship to look like."

And commenting on how the result impacts financial markets and investors, Guy Foster, head of research at Marlborough-based wealth management company Brewin Dolphin said: "The potential for a smooth Brexit removes some of the downside risk for the UK economy.

"This should be positive for both business and consumer confidence, at least in the short term, with a gradual acceleration in GDP growth and confidence.

"Households are likely to increase spending and businesses that are primarily exposed to the UK’s economy will receive a boost; most notably retailers, house builders, and some banks.

"However, a lot can change over the coming months as the finer detail of the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU is negotiated.

"This is still, after all, just the beginning of the exit process. Even with the passing of the withdrawal agreement, the UK could still leave the EU without a deal at the end of 2020 if trade negotiations don’t proceed successfully.

"It remains to be seen whether the UK will have tariff-free trade or World Trade Organisation terms. "Aside from Brexit of course, there remain plenty of other challenges facing the government. The Conservative manifesto may have been scant on detail, but there were a number of new public spending pledges that sought to signal an end to austerity and make use of the so-called Brexit dividend. We await these with interest."

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