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Annual summer lunch- a timely opportunity for the business community

Last week the capital’s business leaders convened for our annual summer lunch, with guest speakers Sir Vince Cable, MP and Baroness Neville-Rolfe. A fortnight into the new government’s office, the lunch was a timely opportunity to assess the landscape and look ahead at the challenges and priorities for London business.

Our chair John Allan pointed to the opportunities a government in ‘more of a listening mode’ presented.  It was a strong rallying call for business to come together and press for what it needs to keep our capital competitive. The first of which, is “a sensible, manageable immigration policy that is open to talent, not counterproductive to London and the rest of the UK economy.”

It was also encouraging to hear our guest speakers agree on key areas that must take precedence as we prepare Britain for leaving the EU.

Sir Vince Cable gave a frank assessment of the current landscape, pointing to the many question marks around “the risks; which we can quantify and the uncertainty, which we cannot.”

There was a call for the business community to help steer government to a more balanced outlook on negotiations, as Cable said; “politicians tend to see things in primary colours.” The strong favourite for Liberal Democrat leadership showed clear support for staying in the single market and the customs union, as well as the importance of infrastructure investment, asking why Crossrail 2 appeared to have vanished from the agenda.

Keynote, Baroness Neville-Rolfe similarly pointed to a pro-business approach to Brexit, stating that “the economy must be the number one priority’. Immigration closely followed this, and a robust approach to counter terrorism, ensuring the country’s security was a third critical area.

On other areas of priority for London First members, Baroness Rolfe identified innovative construction methods as key to tackling the mounting housing crisis, and on the issue of talent, raised the question “are we working hard enough to look at our own community skills pool? We need to be talking to our young people about skills.”

It was clear alignment with our chair’s stirring opening words, emphasising London First’s drive to bring business together on a national skills mission. “We have a moral responsibility to provide our young with the skills they need for the future.”

We thank EY for their support as hosts of the annual Summer Business lunch. View photos from the day here.

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