Carolyn Fairbairn

The UK economy has a "golden opportunity" to build a "new era of growth and prosperity", the new director general of business lobby group, the CBI, has said on her first day on the job.

Carolyn becomes CBI director general with over 25 years experience in business, spanning board roles in media, manufacturing and banking. She replaces John Cridland who stepped down from the role following the CBI's Annual Conference last week.

In her first message to CBI members, Ms Fairbairn said:

“The UK has a golden opportunity to move on from its strong recovery to build a new era of growth and prosperity for the whole country. Among the defining issues will be seizing the opportunities of devolution for growth outside London, closing the productivity gap, and the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
“One of the most exciting opportunities for the UK over the next five years is to make the ideals behind the Northern Powerhouse and growth beyond London a reality, while at the same time supporting the capital to reach new levels of success as one of the world’s truly great cities. The CBI’s role will be to bring a strong business voice to the devolution settlements and then work with the UK’s nations and regions to build momentum for change and growth. Above all, I would like the CBI, and my leadership of it, to be judged on our achievements in making a positive impact on productivity, growth and future prosperity across the whole of the UK.
“UK productivity is 30% below that of the United States and 28% below that of Germany. In a world of accelerating global competition, this is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The solutions lie in innovation, people and leadership and in tackling long-term weaknesses in skills and infrastructure.”
In the past few weeks, the CBI has received criticism over its stance on the EU referendum. Those campaigning for the UK to leave the Union believe the CBI wants the UK to stay part of it, regardless of the outcome of the Prime Ministers reform negotiations.
On Europe, Carolyn will said: “On Europe, most of our members want to be in a reformed EU because of the benefits of the Single Market and the CBI is clear on what those reforms are - developing the Single Market, more trade deals, less and better regulation, as well as ensuring that the integrity of non-Eurozone countries such as the UK is protected.
“The CBI does have some members who feel that the UK should leave the EU, or who understandably want to see the outcome of the reforms before finally making a decision. We know this because we are a consultative organisation – and over the last three years, we have held over 130 consultation events with our members across the country. Those members who take a different view on the EU speak up, we listen to and respect their views, and we will consult with them – and all CBI members - again when the Government’s deal has been done.”
Carolyn welcomed the Prime Minister’s letter to the President of the European Council, setting out his reform agenda, as an important step forward. “It set out four areas of reform that touch on most of the concerns of UK business. Our members are supportive of this direction of travel and we look forward to working with the Government to deliver it, and to helping establish how the reforms might work in practice.”