The Confederation of British Industry insists thousands of home-grown firms will be the “beacon that guides us from the gloom” of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Trade Minister Ranil Jayawardena told the Daily Express that post-Brexit Britain will be “a dynamic trading superpower” by slashing red tape and backing exporters. Their upbeat New Year messages came as Boris Johnson pledged a recruitment drive for more police, nurses, teachers, prison officers and other public servants. The Prime Minister said: “My commitment to recruit frontline workers is unwavering.”
Meanwhile, CBI president Lord Karan Bilimoria and Mr Jayawardena said they are setting their sights on a rapid bounceback from economic doldrums left by lockdowns in exclusive articles for today’s Express.
Lord Bilimoria, chairman of Cobra Beer, predicted that Britain’s economy will be rebuilt “not simply by restoring a more normal way of life but by forging something new – a society that is better, fairer and more sustainable”.
The crossbench peer added: “British businesses can – and will – be at the forefront of that rebuilding.
“They say it is always darkest before the dawn – and the dawn is coming.
“I believe UK industry can be the beacon which guides us from the gloom as we look to rebuild our economy in a way which delivers long-term prosperity for us all.”
The CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses employing seven million people, today publishes a fiercely upbeat forecast for 2021 after the UK economy suffered its worst 12 months in more than 300 years.
Businesses are continuing to take a battering, with most of England under the tightest coronavirus restrictions. But following the signing of the EU trade deal, the CBI says they now have the clarity to drive growth forward.
It said businesses were “like a coiled spring ready to release ambition and investment – they just need a chance”.
It also believes the rapid rollout of vaccines will allow consumer spending to rocket as earnings recover, most likely from the middle of the year.
And it forecast a six percent rate of growth in GDP this year, which will slip back to 5.2 percent next year after the Government withdraws its pandemic support programmes.
Business investment, which slumped by 17.5 percent last year, is set for a further small fall of -0.6 percent in 2021 before it rebounds by 9.3 percent in 2022.
Lord Bilimoria said: “The UK is entering not just a new year, but a new world – a world in the grip of a pandemic, where long-standing relationships are changing and a recession has taken hold.
“Yet while challenges ahead of us are significant, they are not insurmountable. I see plenty of reasons for optimism. We can rebuild, and rebuild quickly, and do it not simply by restoring a more normal way of life, but by forging something new.
“A society which is better, fairer and more sustainable.
“I believe British businesses can – and will – be at the forefront of that rebuilding.
“Businesses have proven they have what it takes. UK firms of all shapes and sizes have shown astounding ingenuity and creativity to meet the crises of 2020 head-on. They are primed and ready to help build a better Britain.”
He explained that “firms have revamped working methods, launched new product lines, invented innovative routes to market.
“Throughout this crisis, business leaders have retained an eye on the bigger picture; they have taken their duty of care to employees to new levels, and reaffirmed their commitments to diversity, opportunity and climate change.”
In a separate article, Trade Minister Mr Jayawardena is similarly optimistic about the potential for business growth this year.
He writes: “With the ingenuity, resilience and determination of our businesses, and the support we are putting in place, I am confident that Britain’s future is great.”
Mr Jayawardena said the Government had defied the “doubters, doomsters and gloomsters” by agreeing trade deals with 63 countries as well as the Prime Minister’s historic accord with Brussels.
Ministers have aimed to support small and medium-sized business (SMEs) by negotiating specific clauses in the deals to promote their products.
He added: “This people’s government is particularly keen to support SMEs so they can use their agility to benefit Britain, as Britain uses her agility to benefit them.
“That’s why we’re negotiating specific SME chapters in our future trade deals.” He also promised that the Government would help Britain regain “her buccaneering belief as a dynamic trading superpower with a red-tape-slashing spirit and cutting-edge trade support”.
He said: “Global Britain is here, and she is here to stay – a Global Britain who stands tall as a fierce champion of the free and fair, rules-based, international trade system that not only gives us the weapons to fight this pandemic but will be the key to our future prosperity.”
A Treasury spokesman said last night: “As the Chancellor has set out, there will be tough days and months ahead, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our unprecedented support for jobs and businesses across the UK in the form of our £280billion economic support package and Plan for Jobs puts us in a strong position to rebuild after the pandemic.
“This investment combined with the early rollout of a vaccine, and the free trade deal the PM has negotiated with the EU means we will benefit from our newfound freedom and autonomy – and can look ahead to a brighter future for the economy and the country.
“Whether it be new roads or rail connecting our towns and cities, leading the world in creating green jobs, working with businesses to unlock new investment or creating freeports right across the UK, we are fully committed to uniting and levelling up to ensure opportunity for all in the New Year.”