Business Leaders Summit 2016 - Britain at the heart of the global economy

 

Britain’s success in the decades to come is not guaranteed and we must seize new opportunities as they arise, said Angela Eagle in her keynote speech.

Angela Eagle MP

Shadow First Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

She called for action to take advantage of rapid digitisation, robotics and big data - factors she said may transform our lives far quicker than we anticipate. “The world is now on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and if we are not ready for the wave coming towards us, we will miss it,” Ms Eagle warned. Britain was “the first industrial nation” but we must react to the challenges of this new age if we are to continue to generate prosperity. Ms Eagle added that she wanted to understand how policymakers could help businesses succeed. Partnerships between politicians and industry can help “ensure an economy that promotes long-term growth and profitability”, she added.

ADDRESSING STRUCTURAL ISSUES AND BREXIT

While global threats from China’s slowdown and stock market volatility were clear, Ms Eagle said Britain must also tackle domestic structural weaknesses. “We are in the midst of a productivity crisis, we face a skills emergency and we have a longstanding trade deficit,” she said. Turning to the EU membership referendum, she said she wants Britain to be forward-thinking and outward-looking, adding that almost half our exports go to EU nations. “We are an open, trading nation and we should not be isolationist,” she said, going on to suggest that Brexit could destabilise our prosperity. She said big business has an important voice in the debate about what she called “possibly the most important political moment of all of our lifetimes”.

Video: Britain at the Heart of the Global Economy

KEY CHALLENGES: EXPORTS, DIGITAL, INFRASTRUCTURE AND DIVERSITY

Improving Britain’s export performance is a continuing challenge and Ms Eagle said, proportionally, we export less than Italy, France or Germany. She called for a long-term export strategy to develop existing relationships and open up new overseas markets. Boosting productivity, improving skills, tackling infrastructure problems and ensuring access to finance for innovators will all be vital if Britain is to export significantly more, she stated. Ms Eagle added that support for digital and creative start-ups is of great importance, as technological change will fuel future development. But she said it was unacceptable that 12m UK adults lack basic digital skills and that some communities still lack high-speed broadband. She added that we had been ranked 13th in the world for quality of infrastructure and stand behind nations like Namibia for the quality of our roads. Lastly, she turned to inequality between the sexes, saying Britain must make more of women’s talent. Progress towards having more female leaders has been too slow and we need more women entrepreneurs and more in science and technology, Ms Eagle said.

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