Brexiteers risk closing the door on open economy and are ashamed of attracting the best talent, says CBI chief

'They regard it as an indication that it is somehow a shameful thing to be attracting the best talent from around the world, rather than a source of pride,' Fairbairn said

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The Independent Online

Britain is at risk of “closing the door” on an open economy with Theresa May's shift towards a “hard Brexit”, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned.

Carolyn Fairbairn, who took over the CBI last year, issued a stark warning against the Prime Minister’s crackdown on immigration as the Government backed out on its initial plan to name businesses thought to be relying too heavily on foreign workers.

Members of the CBI, an organisation which speaks for 190,000 companies and businesses in the UK, expressed shock at the proposal.

In an interview with The Times, Ms Fairbairn said that businesses were dismayed by the idea:

“They regard it as an indication that it is somehow a shameful thing to be attracting the best talent from around the world, rather than a source of pride,” Ms Fairbairn said.

“What we have heard over the past few days, if you add up the messages in total, are signs that the door is being closed, to an extent, on the open economy, that has helped fuel investment,” she added.

Ms Fairbairn said that jobs and communities would suffer if the Government decided not to work in collaboration with businesses.

“It’s very clear from conversations we are having that the world is watching. International investors are watching. Companies here are watching. And they are reading a lot into the signals of this Government about how committed they are to creating a strong economy,” she said.

Steve Hilton, the former No 10 policy guru who backed Brexit during the campaign, has condemned Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s proposal as “divisive, repugnant, and insanely bureaucratic”.

He said ministers may as well announce that “foreign workers will be tattooed with numbers on their forearms”.

After the immigration clampdown plan on firms provoked uproar, Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, announced that companies will not be forced to publish the data.

There “will be absolutely no naming and shaming”, Ms Greening said. 

Sterling was down almost five per cent last week, on the back of fears among traders and investors that the UK is heading for a “hard” Brexit, meaning the UK would leave the single market by 2019.

On Monday, the pound fell under $1.24 at $1.23828 against the dollar in early trading – down 0.3 per cent.

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