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Important to take ‘whole economy approach’ in Brexit negotiations: CBI Director-General

With the U.K.'s future on uneven ground following the vote to leave the European Union, the country's leading business body is calling on the government to give the economy a "shot in the arm."

While third-quarter U.K. GDP figures came in above market expectations, one key event investors are now looking towards is November 23 when the government releases its Autumn Statement.

Here, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will outline the government's future spending plans, while commenting on the state of the economy.

With businesses and foreign investors fearful of what lies ahead, Hammond should make it a "top priority" to set out a program that will get British regions "firing on all cylinders" and that supports businesses "to innovate, invest and create jobs" in the years to come, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said Thursday.

In its submission to the government, the business lobby group called upon the U.K. finance minister to set out an "ambitious pro-enterprise agenda" which inspires confidence and kick starts investment, putting forward their own recommendations on how the government could capitalize on the U.K.'s core strengths.

"This is a really important Autumn Statement and we think what should really be prioritized is investment. We need a shot in the arm for investment in the U.K. economy," CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn told CNBC on Thursday.



Director-General of The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn
NIKLAS HALLE'N | AFP | Getty Images
Director-General of The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairbairn

In the CBI's submission, the group put forth a raft of proposals, from increasing public investment by £6 billion ($7.3 billion) a year, to increasing tax credits for research and development by 50 percent, and closing the gap on maternity pay and childcare support.

"There are two reasons for (this investment boost). The first is the uncertainty that's been created by the Brexit vote and that's particularly around investment decisions that companies are planning – so finding ways to bring those investments forward," Fairbairn said.

"And secondly, investing in the productivity of our economy, which we know has been a problem for a number of years."

In September however, Hammond played down hopes of a major investment surge, saying he could announce modest infrastructure investments to prop up the economy, but there would be limited room for maneuver, because of the country's weak public finances; Reuters reported.


Every sector is affected by Brexit

While the U.K. will have to wait another month to learn about the government's spending plans, the whole of Europe is keeping an even closer eye on how the negotiations between the bloc and the U.K could turn out.

"I think it's very important that we do take a whole-economy approach to the (Brexit) negotiations,", said Fairbairn.

"There isn't a sector that isn't affected by the decision to leave the European Union and although there are some sectors that are at the sharp end – I think financial services because of the passport issues is at the sharp end of the implications of the vote, but we must take into account the needs of manufacturing, of other elements of services and the retail sector as well."

Looking at the possible ramifications of the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU, Fairbairn said the prospect that the U.K. could lose financial passporting rights was a "really serious concern", and that the current barrier-free access to the single market was "very valuable to U.K. businesses".

"So any solutions that create additional complexity, heavy controls at customs borders, new tariffs are going to be a drain on the U.K. economy and needs to be avoided."

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