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Rishi Sunak Promises Business Innovation, Minister Dismisses "Swiss-style" Brexit, MP Scorns Beckham In Qatar

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak laid out his plans for business innovation at the CBI conference (Alamy)

7 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised that the government wants to focus on “innovation” and “new ideas” to drive economic growth in a major speech to business leaders at the annual CBI Conference in Birmingham.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to make clear plans on how they will “seize growth to give everyone a path out of difficult times,” and expressed major concerns about labour shortages. 

In his speech, Sunak told leading businesses that the government plans to boost innovation and growth using "Brexit freedoms". Business leaders have called for a liberalisation of immigration rules in order to tackle skills shortages.

Sunak acknowledged times have been tough for businesses in the wake of the pandemic and recent economic instability exacerbated by his predecessor Liz Truss's short-lived government, but said he is confident that he and Hunt have reestablished stability and controlled inflation in last week’s Autumn Statement.

Sunak said the government must be “bold, decisive, and radical” by embedding innovation in public services and teaching people the skills needed to become “great innovators”.

“We're absolutely committed to using our new Brexit freedom to create the most pro-innovation, regulatory environment in the world,” he said. 

He also outlined how in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor protected the £20bn budget for research and development, almost a fifth of the government’s entire capital budget.

Sunak’s speech is unlikely to please the CBI, however, after the director-general Tony Danker said this morning that businesses worry they'll struggle with growth.

Danker used his own speech to express worries about labour shortages and called on the government to allow better immigration to solve the problem. 

"The problem the government have is we really don't know how we're going to get growth going in the economy," he told Sky News. 

But Sunak used his speech to reiterate his commitment to controlling illegal immigration.

“Part of the reason we ended the free movement of labour was to rebuild public consensus in our immigration system," he said. 

“If we're going to have a system that allows businesses to access the best and brightest around the world, we need to do more to give the British people trust and confidence that the system works.

“That means tackling illegal migration and that's what I'm determined to do.”

Immigration minister insists UK will not pursue "Swiss-style" EU deal

Robert Jenrick EU deal
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the UK is committed to reducing overall net migration Alamy

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said the UK will not be pursuing a “Swiss-style” agreement with the European Union to have greater access to the single market. 

The Sunday Times reported that government figures are planning to put Britain on the path towards an agreement with the EU to forge closer economic ties, which could involve more liberal EU migration, and payments to the EU budget.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has suggested that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be attempting to remove trade barriers with the EU, in contrast to his predecessor Boris Johnson’s approach. 

However, Jenrick told Sky News on Monday that Britain chose a "settled position" in 2019 on Brexit and that it would not be having a Swiss-style agreement.

He said the government’s aim would still be to reduce overall net migration as that was one of the “driving forces” behind Brexit, but added: "That doesn't mean we're not interested in improving our trading relations with the EU or security and migration partnerships."

The minister insisted businesses should look to the British workforce and local people to fill employment gaps, in opposition to the Confederation of British Industry’s call for greater immigration to solve UK worker shortages.

Labour minister calls for investigation into Manston migrant death

Manston migrant detention centre
The death of a migrant at the Manston processing centre has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct Alamy

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has called for an investigation into the death of a migrant staying at the Manston processing centre. 

A man who arrived in the UK on a small boat on 12 November has died, according to the Home Office. He fell ill last Friday evening while at the detention site and later died in hospital. 

The case has been referred to the coroner and to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper tweeted her “deep condolences” to the family and friends of the man, and said: “There will of course need to be a full investigation into this tragic case.”

When asked by LBC on Monday about the time and conditions under which the man arrived, immigration minister Robert Jenrick refused to give further information. 

"We do know the date that he entered the country, and how he was cared for whilst he was here,” he said, but could not release specific details.

"At the moment, we're still trying to contact his next of kin, and so it is important for us to treat this with respect."

A Home Office spokesperson said there was "no evidence at this stage" that the person died from infectious disease.

Labour shadow minister says Beckham shouldn't have gone to World Cup

David Beckham in Qatar
Footballer David Beckham has given his support to the hosts of this year’s World Cup Alamy

Labour minister Tulip Siddiq said she would not have attended the controversial World Cup tournament in Qatar if she was in David Beckham’s shoes. 

Qatar, the host nation of this year’s World Cup, has been widely criticised for its human rights record following the deaths of thousands of workers directly linked to the construction of the tournament’s stadiums, and its treatment of LGBTQ+ people.

Qatar has multiple laws that criminalise LGBTQ+ people, including that sex between adult men is illegal and punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.

Footballer David Beckham has given his support to the hosts of this year’s World Cup, saying it will be a "platform for progress".

But Shadow Treasury Minister Siddiq has criticised his decision to support and attend the competition, as he should be a “role model”.

She said: “Anything we can do to highlight the plight of human rights abuse is a good thing.

“I probably wouldn't do the same thing if I were in his shoes.”

Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi has accepted an invite by the Qatari monarch to attend multiple World Cup games, according to the BBC. 

The BBC were told he will attend in a non-ministerial capacity and will be paying for everything himself.


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