Chris Cummings, Chief Executive at TheCityUK, responds to today’s Queen’s Speech:
TheCityUK believes that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU should be based on a constructive reform agenda that will benefit the City, the UK and Europe. Prolonged uncertainty around the UK’s status as an EU Member State could harm the UK’s business environment and impact major investment decisions, and therefore a referendum should be held without undue delay.
The UK is Europe’s financial capital and the financial and related professional services industry has a vital role to play in facilitating the investment that will create sustainable economic growth across the EU, helping business to thrive and create jobs. The EU is the UK’s biggest market for exports, responsible for over one third of the UK’s £58.5 billion financial services trade surplus in 2013.
Our research reveals that 95% of business leaders believe that being part of the Single European Market is important to the UK’s future competitiveness; 84% have stated that they want to remain in the EU. But they recognise that reform is essential and we look forward to seeing a reform package that delivers an EU that is dynamic, flexible and globally competitive.
The ambition to bring about a balanced economic recovery right across the UK is right, fair and urgent. As a major employer in the north of England – employing over 250,000 across cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle – the financial and related professional services industry supports the Government’s commitment to further develop the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and the opportunity it brings to attract investment into northern towns and cities. We welcome the Government’s commitment to progressing with the HS2, but believe that infrastructure in its broadest term should also be a primary focus for this Government, including better connectivity within the UK and with global markets.
TheCityUK welcomes proposed legislation to cut red tape for SMEs and facilitate job creation and call for continued improvement to the regulatory environment for all businesses. A commitment from this Government to implement bold and ambitious policies that will support its greatest tax paying sector (contributing a total of £66 billion in 2014) – the financial and related professional services industry – should also be a priority. These factors will be crucial in maintaining the UK’s competitiveness as the pre-eminent international financial centre. It is essential that the UK can retain existing business and provide the right environment to attract new inward investment in the face of competition from a diverse range of emerging and established international financial centres.
Part of maintaining the UK’s competitiveness is ensuring it has a properly skilled workforce with immigration policies that support the competitiveness of UK businesses. Both sides of this coin are essential and will ultimately help to achieve the Government’s stated goal of raising the productive potential of the economy.
TheCityUK welcomes the Government’s commitment to enhance its partnership with India and China. These major emerging markets offer great business opportunities for the financial and related professional services industry and we look forward to working with the Government to deepen trade and investment ties. Similarly, opportunities exist elsewhere, not least with the need to complete an ambitious and comprehensive TTIP with the US. Enhancing links with emerging and developing economies will play a big part in delivering economic growth now and for the future.