In Brief

‘More 1945 than 2008’: new CBI chief calls for economic reboot 

Tony Danker says strategic response is needed to tackle ‘triple shock’ of Brexit, Covid and climate change

The UK must implement an economic strategy to overcome the “triple shocks” of Brexit, Covid-19 and climate change, the new director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has told business leaders. 

In his first keynote address since replacing Carolyn Fairbairn as head of the business group, Tony Danker warned that Britain’s failure to “build back better” after the 2008 banking crisis must not be repeated. Instead, the nation must draw on the “better precedents” set in the aftermath of the Second World War, “when our postwar reconstruction gave birth to the NHS and the creation of the welfare state”.

“I believe we must, and we will, come together to forge a better decade. More 1945 than 2008,” he said. 

Danker’s speech to a virtual audience of business, political and civil society leaders came as Boris Johnson’s government “drew up plans for easing coronavirus restrictions this spring and rebooting the economy from the deepest recession in more than 300 years”, The Guardian reports. 

Achieving that goal “needs a vision, a plan and a consensus as a nation to pursue it,” said Danker.

During some of “our darkest times, we have made real shifts for the better”, but “I don’t think we did that after 2008”, he continued. “We stabilised the economic system immediately. Then for the long run, we stabilised the public finances. And we achieved modest economic growth.

“But our productivity growth flatlined. And our society divided rather than united.”

‘Unity and foresight’

The new CBI boss is calling on the government, businesses and trade unions to work together on a response for the next ten years and not just for the short term.

“Let’s be clear. The scale of the shocks we’re facing today, three coalescing all at once - Brexit, Covid, and the climate imperative - demand a similarly dramatic moment of unity and foresight,” he said. “They each demand a response.

“They also hold clues to what that response should be. Each shock alone is enough to force fresh thinking. Taken together, they make 2021 as pivotal a year as any we can remember.”

Urging the government to invest in a green economic recovery, Danker added: “Now is the time for something completely different. History will judge how we used this moment to map the path to get to 2030.”

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