Business leaders gave a guarded welcome to the Conservatives' election victory but warned that Boris Johnson must avoid a damaging no-deal Brexit in trade talks with the EU.
The Confederation of British Industry and other business groups said a government with a solid majority brought clarity after years of parliamentary deadlock following the hung parliament election of 2017. But the lobby groups said Boris Johnson's "get Brexit done" slogan masked the complexity of negotiating an EU trade deal by December 2020.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI's director general, said: "The fact that we now have a prime minister with a very strong mandate to govern is welcome. The real work starts now. It's very, very important to rebuild business confidence. Reassurance around no-deal Brexit options for next year. Businesses do not want to face another no-deal cliff edge next year."
Political and economic uncertainty over Brexit has deterred business investment and hit consumer confidence as the global economy has slowed. Businesses were also wary of Labour's policies, which included nationalisation of utilities and increases to corporation tax. Official figures showed the economy flatlining in October as uncertainty weighed on economic activity.
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Restoring business, investor and consumer confidence - and firing up the economy - must now be the prime minister’s top priority. Campaign slogans must give way to a renewed focus on the details that matter. Our business communities need to see swift, decisive action to avoid a messy and disorderly exit from the EU and to tackle the barriers holding back investment and growth here in the UK."
Marshall said the government needed to achieve a smooth departure from the EU that gives businesses time to plan. He also called for investment in skills, a pragmatic immigration system and reform of onerous business rates.
Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: "After years of parliamentary chaos, directors want to see a government that is clear-sighted about the challenges facing businesses, and ambitious, but realistic, in its response.
"Business leaders’ thoughts will immediately be turning to Brexit. For directors, ‘Get Brexit Done’ will only have meaning once the details of our long-term future relationship with the EU are clear. “
Whilst Brexit will obviously be the dominant issue over the coming months, on the R&D side, MSC R&D will continue to actively lobby (through our membership of key trade organisations such as techUK and CBI) for the government to fulfil its election manifesto commitments of:
- improving the R&D Tax Credits scheme (Increasing the RDEC rate to 13% and reviewing widening the definition of R&D to include Cloud computing and Data)
- potentially doubling the overall funding for business-led Research and Development to £18 billion over the next parliament.