CBI: Misery Merchants

The CBI is a business membership body that supposedly represents the interests of British (and Northern Irish) business. But you could be forgiven for missing this.

During the entire EU Referendum campaign, the local branch of the CBI was unrelenting it its gloom-laden assessments of the outlook for the NI economy should the UK electorate choose to leave the EU.

And, despite the fact that a majority of the UK electorate chose to ignore the advice of the CBI (and the OECD, IMF, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, UK Treasury etc.) the misery predictions continue. Yesterday the CBI conducted a ‘snap poll’ of attendees at one of its gloomy local events sponsored by a gloomy accounting firm. This “poll” of attendees at a CBI post-brexit gloom event made for gloomy reading. Gloom is predicted. Not just immediate gloom but gloom lasting five years.

This nonsense is eagerly reported, of course. David Gavaghan and Angela McGowan of the CBI will continue to provide doom-laden soundbites that will pepper reports based on surveys of members that will predict mayhem for the Northern Ireland economy if the UK does what all non-EU member countries do: govern themselves.

The CBI is to business what FIFA is to football.

Business people, thankfully, are too busy running businesses to worry too much what the CBI thinks or predicts about the future. Apart from anything, no-one is going to check (certainly not any journalists) whether yesterday’s snap survey of attendees (at a gloomy little breakfast) proves to be accurate.  Who cares?

What business owners care about includes serving customers, making a living, growing, thriving, brand-building, finding new markets. When we leave the EU new opportunities will be thrown up. Governments across the world are queuing-up to sign trade deals with the UK. Soon we’ll be able to import goods without trade barriers from our Commonwealth partner countries. A trade deal with China will mean cheaper solar panels. Wine from New Zealand will, hopefully, be duty free. A cheaper pound means huge opportunities for exports and the Northern Ireland tourism industry.

In short, business people always see opportunities in change – not eternal negativity. But the CBI and its corporate members are so remote from business that they seem to miss the point of it.

Capitalism and the profit motive have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU or the CBI. Business people do not need permission to trade – they do it by default. Nor do they need suits telling them what the future holds.

So ignore the surveys and the reports and the sound-bites from the CBI grandees. Go build a business instead.

Free market libertarian. Businessman. Small government advocate. Former Vice-Chair, Conservative Party in NI. Fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs. Former Regional Chair, Business for Britain (the business voice of VoteLeave).