Tony Danker, the CBI director general, may not be asking for a Swiss-style Brexit deal, but he does want more immigration. In his interview on the Today programme, he said the government should expand the shortage occupation list – the list of jobs for which foreigners can easily get work visas, because employers cannot find Britons to fill them. He told Today:
When you look at the OBR report on Thursday, they said the only thing that’s really moved the needle on growth is by allowing in a bit more immigration.
The reason why it’s so important is we have literally over a million vacancies in this country, we have 600,000 people who are now long-term unwell, who aren’t coming back to the labour market any time soon.
That’s why we have to get this shortage occupation list – the list of people that we’re really missing that we aren’t going to get in Britain any time soon – and we have to get them to plug the gap while we re-calibrate the labour market in the medium term.
I’m afraid it’s one of those levers that does help you grow, doesn’t cost money, but I recognise it’s a tough political choice for Conservative politicians.
But Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister who was doing the morning interview round for No 10, said the government did not agree. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, Jenrick said the government was still committed to reducing net migration.
Good morning. Rishi Sunak is addressing the CBI conference this morning, where it is normal for prime ministers to take questions after they have delivered their speech. Sunak is likely to be asked about yesterday’s report in the Sunday Times that started with the intro:
Senior government figures are planning to put Britain on the path towards a Swiss-style relationship with the European Union.
The report is now being denied, but you might have assumed that it would have gone down well with the CBI, which was strongly opposed to Brexit in 2016 and which continues to argue that the way Brexit has been implemented is harmful to business. But even the CBI isn’t calling for a Swiss-style Brexit deal. Tony Danker, the CBI director general, has joined the many Tory Brexiters who reacted with alarm to yesterday’s story in saying that the government should not be aiming for a Swiss-style deal. He told the Today programme this morning:
I’m a bit puzzled about the whole Swiss thing. It took them about 40 years to get to the Swiss arrangement. Currently, we’re not even implementing Boris’s deal. Let’s implement Boris’s Brexit deal, that still has some growth in it, by the way, that’s all come to a freeze, and let’s forget the discussion about Switzerland for now.
Asked if a Swiss-style Brexit deal would be a betrayal of Brexit, Danker replied:
All I want to do is implement Boris’s deal. Currently we’re not implementing Boris’s deal. We’ve got we’ve got an impasse because of the Northern Ireland protocol. There’s lots of freezing of our science relationships, of our recognition of our qualifications, of easier travel across Europe. Those things will give us some growth. But it needs the Europeans and the British government to get round the table and solve the protocol.
There’s a landing zone there. If we fulfil the agreement on the protocol, we’ll start to open up some of those other other economic benefits from Boris’s trade deal.
Danker is speaking at the CBI conference just before Sunak. As my colleague Graeme Wearden reports on his business live blog, Danker will argue that last week’s autumn statement did not contain a plan for growth.
Here is the agenda for the day.
10.15am: Rishi Sunak speaks at the CBI conference in Birmingham.
11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
2.30pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, takes questions in the Commons.
4.15pm: Gove gives evidence to the Commons levelling up committee.
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