CBI warns Theresa May's Government against ‘flash-in-the-pan industrial strategies’

Ms Fairbairn is expected to say that the Ms May needs to clarify which sectors the Government will "have deals with" and if only some, "then which ones, and why?"

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The head of the UK’s preeminent business lobby group is demanding that the Government sharpens its industrial strategy focus and provides more clarity on what kind of support it intends to offer firms as Britain braces to navigate economic headwinds and political uncertainty.

According to pre-released remarks that Carolyn Fairbairn is due to make in Leicester on Wednesday, the director-general of the CBI will say that the Government needs to answer key questions around where the UK economy and businesses are heading at a transformative time for the country.

“What kind of economy does the UK want to be, beyond the characteristics we all agree on, like productive and inclusive?” she will ask.

Theresa May’s Government in January published a green paper on industrial strategy but while Ms Fairbairn describes it as “a good starting point”, she is also expected to indicated that it lacks “clear actions and milestones”.

The Government has in the past been criticised for a lack of transparency on its industrial strategy, especially after it emerged last year that Japanese carmaker Nissan had been offered assurances from the to encourage it to keep major production sites in the UK despite Brexit.

Ms Fairbairn is expected to say that the Ms May needs to clarify which sectors the Government will “have deals with” and if only some, “then which ones, and why?”. 

She will also demand reassurance from the Government that the strategy does not change soon once put in place.

“Firms need consistency and predictability. There are too many historic examples of flash-in-the-pan industrial strategies – this one must be different.”

The CBI represents around 190,000 businesses across the UK.

Last month the lobby group warned in a letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond  that although the UK economy has been resilient since last June’s EU referendum, growth is likely to slow this year, with business investment stalling. 

A slump in the pound is leading to higher inflation, in turn eroding consumer spending power and particularly piling pressure on retailers and manufacturers, the CBI said.

“The cumulative effect of these pressures risks hampering firms’ ability to deliver jobs and growth and raise productivity,” Ms Fairbairn wrote at the time.