Queen's speech - political logjam worries business

Business groups in the UK have welcomed many of the legislative proposals outlined in the Queen's Speech but have voiced concerns about whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson's minority government will ever be able to deliver them.

Queen Elizabeth II addresses Parliament in 2016

The Queen's Speech 2016. Copyright UK Parliament. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

In the speech to parliament on Monday, the government put forward plans for 26 new laws, almost a third of them related to law and order.Other proposals included a move to a points-based system for post-Brexit immigrants; measures to establish new regulatory frameworks for financial services, trade, fishing and farming; an ambitious environmental policy to reduce waste and cut emissions; and infrastructure initiatives to include efforts to make fast broadband available to every home.

No-deal Brexit worries UK business leaders

But it was the political climate in a divided country and, inevitably, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit that dominated the minds of many of the country's business leaders.Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that with a no-deal Brexit still possible and a general election looming, the Queen’s Speech was "less about the pomp and more about the circumstance" for most businesses.“The prime minister has a domestic vision that could excite enterprise and drive growth," he said. “Firms will welcome the focus on improving jobs, backed by investment in science, infrastructure and education.“Businesses could work with a points-based immigration system that recognises people’s contribution is about much more than just their pay packet.“With a clear, environmental vision that builds on the existing industrial strategy, the UK could step forward with renewed confidence.“But it is impossible to ignore the Brexit straight-jacket. The reality of no deal is that it would set the country back. To deliver the ambition set out in the Queen’s Speech, the will to get a deal must unlock a way to build a new, closely aligned relationship with the EU.”

The UK financial sector needs to maintain competitiveness

Miles Celic, CEO of the financial services lobby group TheCityUK, welcomed the measures in the speech that focused on the future competitiveness of the financial sector."This is especially important against a backdrop of challenging global economic conditions. The prominence given to financial and legal services through two of the announced bills recognises these will remain a key underpinning of the UK’s future economic success, as will access to global talent, championing global free trade, infrastructure development and regional economic development," he said.“It is now vital that the UK and the EU more forward together to secure a Brexit withdrawal agreement that will minimise economic disruption and allow us to move on to the shared priorities of the future economic relationship.”

The UK government must put the economy first

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said business had a simple message for the government: put the economy at the forefront of the national agenda.He said companies faced an "unnerving" time because of Brexit uncertainties, global headwinds and a UK economy in stasis.“Amidst the ongoing political turbulence, businesses can’t afford for government to lose sight of its responsibility to create conditions that support growth and boost investment - much of which doesn’t require new primary legislation," he added."That means action to lower the upfront costs hitting firms, boosting investment in infrastructure and skills, and providing considerable investment incentives to companies.“We’re at a critical juncture in the Brexit process, but the voice of business has been constant and unwavering since the referendum: a messy and disorderly Brexit must be avoided. To avert an overnight change in trading conditions and damaging economic consequences, all sides need to do everything in their power to find a way forward in the coming days.”

Immigration: the UK government must base the system on economic need

On immigration, Mr Marshall said businesses wanted the government to commit to a clear and consistent future immigration system based on economic need."Firms that rely on overseas workers to plug local shortages need clear detail on the rules for continuing to access these skills in the future. At a time of critical recruitment difficulties, companies need to be able to hire workers from aboard all levels and functions without masses of red tape, high costs or long delays,” he said.The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) described the Queen's Speech as a "stark reminder" of domestic challenges that had been neglected over the past three years because the government preoccupation with Brexit.Mike Cherry, national chairman of the FSB, said: "There are proposals to welcome within the bills unveiled today, but unless we re-inject some stability into parliamentary proceedings, they may never become reality."Concrete action is needed at the upcoming Budget to help small firms handle spiraling costs linked to business rates and employment."We have the legislation to enable Brexit, we now need to see negotiators pulling out all the stops this week to reach an agreement that secures a transition period, protects access to trade and skills, and can command a majority in the Commons."Small business owners are sick to the back teeth of uncertainty."

For more news and views, visit our dedicated UK section.

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