The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the UK to continue to have barrier-free access to European markets after Brexit as well as a migration system that allows British businesses to access the skills and labour that they need for post-Brexit success.

The business lobby group engaged in thousands of conversations with its members across the country following the EU referendum result in June. It has now compiled an in-depth account of the opportunities, worries and questions raised by companies in 18 sectors of the UK economy ahead of next year’s EU negotiations.

Its Making a Success of Brexit report chronicles questions that UK businesses have about access to talent, ease of doing business and regulation.

It calls on the Government to recognise the interdependence of the modern economy, where no company operates in isolation: products today are inherently reliant on a raft of complementary services and supply chains that cross borders, and many businesses do not sit neatly within a single sector.

The CBI’s Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, said that UK companies are collectively getting ready for operating outside the EU successfully. But exiting the EU will be an immensely complex process, she warned, adding that “the Government will need to take a ‘whole economy’ approach to avoid leaving sectors behind”.

While the individual sectors all have issues unique to them, the report identifies numerous common and uniting concerns, she added, explaining that all are opposed to the prospect of abrupt changes causing disruption to trade and supply chains.

She continued: “From aviation and chemicals to life sciences and agriculture, firms of all sizes will want to understand how easy it will be for them to trade in the future with the EU which remains the biggest market for British businesses. They need to know what rules they will be working by and how they can still secure access to skilled workers and labour, where shortages already exist.”

The Government clearly has an incredibly difficult balancing act to manage in its forthcoming negotiations. Curbs on immigration featured prominently in the Brexit campaign, and a large swathe of popular opinion appears to support such restrictions. Yet, the view of businesses appears to be in conflict with public sentiment.

For example, this week, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) published its latest JobsOutlook survey of 601 UK employers, many of whom are expecting serious challenges in sourcing the skills that they need to grow in 2017.

It seems likely that many will turn to flexible, highly skilled contracting professionals and Umbrella Company Employees to access these skills on an as-and-when needed basis.

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