Brexit Party accuses CBI of ‘cherry picking’ negative data to talk down EU exit

Louis Stedman-Bryce, The Brexit Party’s sole MEP for Scotland, said he refuses to believe warnings of a hard Brexit being bad for the economy, claiming it is the uncertainty which is having a bad impact on finances. Speaking to the Helensburg Advertiser, he said “I don’t believe the warnings” and maintained a no deal exit must “remain an option”. Mr Stedman-Bryce said this is because Britain has been “pushed into a disadvantage because of the poor negotiations thus far”. He said: “The CBI has been touting its reports about the economic consequences of leaving the EU, but they have cherry-picked the data they’ve used to emphasise the negatives.

“I think the danger is if you talk something down and say it’s going to be dreadful, the chances are much greater that it will indeed be dreadful.”

A CBI spokesman denied the organisation had focused too heavily on either side of the Brexit debate.

He said: “Britain is a fantastic place to do business.

“The CBI and our members, who represent around a third of the private sector workforce, want to keep it that way by leaving with a deal that protects the economy, can pass Parliament and be negotiated with the EU.

“Denying evidence from the majority of businesses and experts about the harm to our economy from a no deal Brexit won’t protect people’s jobs and livelihoods if we leave the EU without a deal.”

The comments from Mr Stedman-Bryce comes as the CBI is due to warn the next Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister that they have the “mother of all jobs ahead of them” to repair “brand Britain”.

The organisation will make a direct plea to the next leader of the country to protect international investment over fears political uncertainty is driving business leaders “to look elsewhere”.

CBI president John Allan will use a speech in London today to urge the future Prime Minister “to repair the fabric of our society, so frayed by the turmoil of the last few years”.

His speech will echo a warning which came at the end of May from CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, who said a no deal Brexit would cause “severe” damage to British businesses.

She said the next Prime Minister needed to listen to “clear, detailed evidence” from businesses when it comes to cutting ties with the European Union.

Leadership hopefuls Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab both said they would work to renegotiate the terms on offer with Brussels but would make sure the UK leaves on October 31, with or without an agreement.

In an open letter to the participants in the race for Number 10, Ms Fairbairn said: “We need compromise, consensus and honesty to resolve the Brexit impasse, quickly.

“Prolonged uncertainty is damaging our economy now – driving up costs and reducing sales.”

The business group will today unveil a downgrade to its growth forecast for 2020, which has fallen from 1.3 percent to 1.0 percent.

The organisation said it has found the “continued Brexit impasse, including the growing possibility of a no-deal exit, together with the high upfront cost of doing business in the UK” is expected to “suffocate investment activity over the near term”.

She continued: “Billions of pounds in investment are being diverted from the economy, harming future jobs and prosperity.

“The CBI urges the next prime minister to build their approach to Brexit from the bottom up – from the clear, detailed evidence of firms, on the ground, managing the day-to-day implications for jobs.

“Only then will the UK have the foundations for a world beating economy.”

Ms Fairbairn said Brexit was not the only concern for British business.

She added: “Threats of renationalisation, continued doubts over vital projects like Heathrow, HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, and unreformed business rates are just a few of the other challenges that make investors think twice.

“It’s time to restore the UK’s reputation as the stable and trusted country to start and grow a business.”

But speaking against the letter shortly after its publication, City AM editor Christian May said the CBI should be focusing beyond the Brexit debate.

Writing in his leader column, he said: “It would be nice if the race devoted sufficient time and space to business and economic policy, and in a bid to direct candidates’ focus on this vital area the CBI today helpfully publishes a letter (more of a desperate plea) to all the would-be PMs, calling on them to commit to ‘a new partnership with business’ that builds a ‘post-Brexit Britain that is both prosperous and fair’.”