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Champion British business instead of talking us down, CBI president tells UK politicians

Tim Wallace
Politicians in other countries promote their businesses proudly - but British leaders too often focus on the bad things companies have done, harming the image of the UK in the world, the CBI has warned

The president of the CBI has hit out at politicians for talking down business and failing to champion the causes of British companies.

The negativity is harming the UK’s reputation at a vital time for its overseas image, Paul Drechsler has warned.  Political leaders too often preferred to project an unfair picture of gloom and bad behaviour, he said.

“The leaders of [the countries I visit] are enthusiastic champions for businesses,” said Mr Drechsler, who is stepping down after three years at the top of the CBI.  “They talk publicly about how they want more business investment at home, about the value business plays in their economies.

I want UK politicians to be proud and enthusiastic champions for UK businesses. “Yes, we do at times fail. But in the grand scheme of things, the failures are exceptions – let’s shout out more loudly about the successes.”

Failure to get important projects off the ground was also harming the UK’s image, as well as damaging the country’s competitiveness, he said.  Mr Drechsler has been calling for the Government to approve the Heathrow expansion since he took the job at the CBI in 2015.

Paul Drechsler said UK politicians can learn a lot from foreign leaders who talk up their countries and their economies Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News

“If we delay it any further, I am in no doubt whatsoever it will have a significant impact on the economy,” he warned. He also urged the Government to conclude Brexit negotiations as soon as possible, with an arrangement that includes no delays or bureaucratic costs at customs.