EU Flag (2)

Five of the UK's biggest business groups have called on the government to give assurances that EU workers will be allowed to remain in the country after the withdrawal from the European Union.

Also calling for the government to press ahead with major infrastructure projects, the business groups said assurances would give the country's businesses a "shot in the arm".

In an open letter, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors, and EEF, said ministers need to show "clear leadership".

"This may be a time for calm reflection, but it is not a time for inaction," they said.

On confirming EU workers' residency rights, the letter urged the government to make an announcement "both because it is the fair thing to do, and because their skills are crucial to the success of our businesses".

On Monday, Chancellor George Osborne told MPs: "Over the past 10 days I have had numerous conversations with various business leaders and leaders of financial institutions, and tomorrow I will be meeting the heads of some of the major banks to discuss how we proceed."

In the letter, the business groups said last week's delay to the decision on increasing airport capacity in the South East cannot "set the tone" for government over the new two years as it negotiations its withdrawal from the European Union.

Earlier, a committee of MPs warned the government of the risks of not giving reassuring EU workers over their rights. Andrew Tyrie, chair of the Treasury select committee, said: "Protecting their rights is the only ethical position that can be taken and what's more, the longer the uncertainty about this question persists the greater the risk of the economic downturn and economic consequences."