The new leader of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn has promised to focus on what matters most for growth, productivity and prosperity across the UK.
She toned down the CBI’s pro-EU stance by calling the Prime Minister’s reform agenda sent to the President of the European Council an important step forward.
Fairbairn believes that the UK has a “golden opportunity” to move on from its strong recovery and build a new era of growth and prosperity for the whole country.
In a message to members of the CBI she highlighted “defining issues”, including how a devolution will have an impact on growth outside London.
“One of the most exciting opportunities for the UK over the next five years is to make the ideals behind the Northern Powerhouse and growth beyond London a reality, while at the same time supporting the capital to reach new levels of success as one of the world’s truly great cities.
“The CBI’s role will be to bring a strong business voice to the devolution settlements and then work with the UK’s nations and regions to build momentum for change and growth.
“Above all, I would like the CBI, and my leadership of it, to be judged on our achievements in making a positive impact on productivity, growth and future prosperity across the whole of the UK.
“UK productivity is 30% below that of the United States and 28% below that of Germany.
“In a world of accelerating global competition, this is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.
“The solutions lie in innovation, people and leadership and in tackling long-term weaknesses in skills and infrastructure.”
Fairbairn said that most CBI members want be a in a “reformed EU”. Reforms that the CBI is a proponent of include: less and better regulation, allowing more trade deals, and ensuring the “integrity of non-Eurozone countries such as the UK is protected.”
“The CBI does have some members who feel that the UK should leave the EU, or who understandably want to see the outcome of the reforms before finally making a decision. We know this because we are a consultative organisation – and over the last three years, we have held over 130 consultation events with our members across the country. Those members who take a different view on the EU speak up, we listen to and respect their views, and we will consult with them – and all CBI members – again when the Government’s deal has been done.”
Carolyn welcomed the Prime Minister’s letter of a reform agenda to the President of the European Council, citing it as a significant step forward.
“It set out four areas of reform that touch on most of the concerns of UK business. Our members are supportive of this direction of travel and we look forward to working with the Government to deliver it, and to helping establish how the reforms might work in practice.”
Fairbairn has more than 25 years of experience in business. She has served as a non-executive director for several large organisations, such as Lloyds Banking Group and The Vitec Group. She was a Non-Executive Director of the Financial Services Authority between 2008 and 2011.
Fairbairn has a degree in Economics from Cambridge University, holds a MBA from the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), and an MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania.