Britain and Europe: Stay or go debate – what was said
The chancellor spoke before the panel debate, stating: “I think we could show how we could make improvements to our relationships with the European Union to get the best of both worlds.”
He added: “Those who have been on platforms like this who want to argue that we need to leave, I think they need to set out what the alternative is, and it will be a big test in the upcoming months to see if they can do that.”
Speaking at the conference, director general John Longworth said the best place for the UK to be was in a "reformed EU". But he added: “I have come to the conclusion that the EU is incapable of meaningful reform, at least in the foreseeable future."
Lord Stuart Rose of Monewden, campaigner for Britain Stronger in Europe, opened up the debate asking: “Do we want to continue to be part of the world’s largest market or do we want to leave with uncertainty of what will result?”
Trade access without barriers and a buoyant market place were two aspects Rose asked the room of businesspersons to consider losing.
However, board member of the Vote Leave campaign, Jon Moyihan, urged the audience to consider how has the UK benefitted from the EU.
Moyihan said: “Growth of our exports have dropped like a stone.” The former CEO claims now is the time for the EU to be more outward looking and expand globally.
Stephanie Flanders, JP Morgan chief market strategist, counter argues Moyihan’s views saying there is no certainty in knowing what leave looks like, and voting out in the upcoming referendum on 23 June 2016 would be preempting a situation that has not happened.
Flanders concluded that for the UK to leave at a time when the country is still getting the benefits of being a part of the EU seems “silly”.
Chief economic advisor to Boris Johnson, Dr Gerard Lyons, concluded the EU shows no signs of reform. He said: “At its core is a political perspective, not an economical one, making it fundamentally flawed.”
Lyons joked the UK’s biggest export is pessimism, and echoed Moyihan’s views stating UK businesses and firms need to be thinking globally.
Corbyn’s take on the UK economy
The UK needs a new brand of economics, focussing on putting investment, productivity and sustainable growth first, according to leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. The country also needs a strong relationship with the rest of the world, focused on trade, cooperation, human rights and conflict resolution.
Six years ago the chancellor said austerity would cut the deficit, and it didn’t happen. Corbyn argues that the economy is a house built on sand and we need to shake things up and put investment first – science tech and green science need to take front and centre stage to get higher productivity and the reindustrialisation of Britain for the digital age.
The banking sector has to be reformed and not treat businesses and consumers as cash cows - we need a national investment bank at the heart of the economy.
The banks need to serve the wider economy to drive investment and lending to rebuild supply chains.
The skills gap
Education and skills training gaps are wide - there are university grads unable to get grad jobs, unemployed people struggling to get skills and businesses struggle to hire people with the right skill set.
Around 88% of businesses think school leavers are unprepared for the workplace – Corbyn hopes to consult with the education sector about how people can upskill and renew skills throughout their lives and adapt for the job market.
In addition, Corbyn called for investment in apprenticeships, as some are too low in quality and some look like attempts to pay less than minimum wage.
Where should the UK invest?
The UK’s infrastructure is out of date, and enterprise and innovation cannot flourish when the UK is lagging behind its competitors.
There needs to be investment into fibre optic broadband, especially in rural areas, as businesses cannot expand without digital investment.
Britain needs to be exporting high tech innovative products around the world. Corbyn summed up by claiming that all of these economical issues are connected and policy needs to be created to fit demand.