Britain is falling behind its peers in the race to spur economic growth and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must act now to boost investment, fix a lack of workers and avoid chaos over post-Brexit rules, the head of an employers group said on Monday.
Confederation of British Industry Director-General Tony Danker praised Sunak for defusing the mini-budget crisis of former leader Liz Truss last year but said he was not matching the growth reforms of the United States and the European Union.
Other countries were ahead of Britain in rolling out green investments in areas such as heat pumps, insulation, building retro-fits, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and carbon capture and storage, Danker said.
“We are behind them now and seem to be hoping for the best,” he said in excerpts of a speech he will make on Monday.
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce pro-growth measures in a budget statement in March. But Danker feared the government might temper its reforms as an election, expected in 2024, approaches.
“If the government wants to reject using economic migration to fill immediate vacancies – something business disagrees with – then their labour market interventions must be the boldest in the world,” he said.
Those reforms should include big changes to welfare and childcare to get people back into work, even if they put further strain on Britain’s already stretched public finances.
Danker repeated the CBI’s call for tax breaks to avoid another hit to Britain’s lagging business investment levels when a two-year incentive expires on March 31, shortly before firms are hit with a sharp increase in tax on their profits.
He also said the government’s plans to scrap all EU-generated laws by the end of 2023 risked “throwing industry into some chaos” at a time when they also face a likely recession.