CBI chief tells Tory hopefuls to champion ‘brand Britain’ after Boris Johnson ‘f*** business’ jibe

ONE OF the country’s most senior business leaders has challenged Tory leadership hopefuls to back “brand Britain” – and end the growing uncertainty over major projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The CBI has challenged Tory leadership hopefuls like Boris Johnson to put business first.

CBI director-general, Carolyn Fairbairn, also called on Theresa May’s successor to work with the 190,000 firms that the organisation represents to build a Brexit policy “from the bottom up”. The intervention is a rebuke of Boris Johnson after the former Foreign Secretary reportedly said “f*** business” over its strong opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An open letter from Ms Fairbairn, published today by The Yorkshire Post, came after Michael Heseltine, a former Deputy Prime Minister, and Sam Gyimah, the ex-Universities Minister, urged the 11 contenders to support the Northern Powerhouse.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairburn has urged Tory leadership hopefuls to back "brand Britain".

The letter warned that “ongoing uncertainty” over high-speed rail risked deterring investment after several candidates, including Mr Johnson, expressed a desire to scrap HS2 – a scheme which is also key to the viability of the proposed new railway across the Pennines – in a bid to woo the 120,000 Tory activists who will elect the new PM.

“Brand Britain is a powerful calling card. But ongoing uncertainty has raised questions about our stability, and not solely because of Brexit,” she told MPs.

“Threats of re-nationalisation, 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.”

She spoke out hours after Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, stressed that Brussels will not renegotiate the current Withdrawal Agreement, and that there was no place for “nostalgia” in politics.

Ms Fairbairn demanded “compromise, consensus and honesty” over Brexit as she challenged candidates to “build a bold and compelling vision for the UK’s future on the world stage” .

She added: “Lift the modern Industrial Strategy from textbook to reality, so it unlocks the animal spirits of enterprise. Make it long term and cross-party.

“Don’t allow it to be torn up every time there’s a change at the top. Ensure every policy and business investment is targeted at the same goals, whether tackling climate change, equipping our young people for the future, or reducing the blight of regional inequality.”

Tories doomed to oppositin, warns Michael Heseltine

TORY grandee Michael Heseltine claimed the Conservative Party will lose office if it tries to outflank Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “Farage and everything he represents in my view is a disaster for this country. The fact that the Conservative leadership struggle appears to be centred on embracing him and his ideas, in my view, will simply just keep the Conservative Party out of power until it wakes up.”

He also said he would refuse to back any leadership candidate unless they support Britain remaining in the EU and offer a second referendum to consolidate that policy.