Carolyn Fairbairn (2)

Businesses' plans to cope with the fallout of the EU referendum result need to be taking shape already, the director general of the CBI has head.

Speaking at the inaugural Evening Standard Business Awards, Carloyn Fairbairn said businesses need calm and decisive leadership, a clear plan for the UK outside of the EU and for the government to work with businesses.

She also called for the government to urgently confirm that EU nationals would be allowed to remain in the country when the UK officially leaves the Union.

Ms Fairbairn said "the world changed" following the referendum.

"As many of you will attest, there is deep, profound concern. But at the same time there is an air of pramatism - companies in Britain are getting ready to get on with it," she said.

"Business leaders are moving from the shock to the questions to the plan to the action, and I see that there are three immediate priorities."

On the need for government to lead, Ms Fairbairn said: “Business needs government to put aside party politics and lead now.

“We do have a timetable for a new Prime Minister. Though this may feel fast in politics, in these circumstances, it’s painfully glacial. The markets and business decisions won’t wait eight weeks.

“Companies need to see a plan taking shape for a world outside the EU... But more than this, far more than this, we need the leadership candidates who may be Prime Minister to engage with business, as soon as possible. They need to inspire confidence, and speak directly to investors around the world, sending out a clear message that we’re still open for business."

On a plan for the future of the UK outside of the EU, Ms Fairbairn added: “The government should resolve publicly to ensure the preservation of an open economy. We should protect tariff and barrier-free access to the Single Market. We should protect the access business has under existing EU world trade deals. And we need to continue to attract global talent.

“We need to consider how to build a simple, clear immigration system that recognises the concerns of the pubic and still allows firms like these to access the skills they need.

“Inevitable trade-offs will be necessary. But it’s crucial that we – as business – decide where the red lines are drawn, sector by sector, so that Government can make an informed decision on the most difficult trade-offs.”

On government and businesses working together, Ms Fairbairn said: “We need a strong working partnership between government and business that starts now.

“It’s a partnership that commits the government to stand behind the principles that underpin our open economy, and where business speaks with a clear and unified voice."