June 19, 2017 / 3:28 PM / a year ago

CBI sees progress on getting business groups formal Brexit role

LONDON (Reuters) - British business groups are making progress in persuading the government to grant them a formal role in future trade talks around Brexit, the head of the Confederation of British Industry, an employers group, said on Monday.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) attends the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in London, Britain November 21, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Countries such as Australia and Canada have given business groups a say in trade negotiations, something that CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said would make a “huge difference” for Britain.

“They have confidential and formal structures and we have been calling for exactly that here. I think that we’re seeing real signs of progress actually,” Fairbairn told reporters at a news conference.

A year after Britons shocked the continent by voting on June 23 to cut loose from their main export market, debate has broken out again within the government over the best Brexit strategy following Prime Minister Theresa May’s electoral failure to win a resounding backing from voters for her approach.

May said before this month’s election that no deal with the EU would be better than a bad deal. Since the vote, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has renewed his calls for a business-friendly Brexit deal.

Sensing a chance to reassert their calls for a deal that does not create major obstacles for exporting to the EU or hiring workers from the bloc, the CBI and other business groups sent a joint letter to May to urge her to put Britain’s economy first in divorce talks with the EU.

Earlier on Monday, Britain’s negotiators arrived in Brussels to seek a “special” Brexit deal.

Fairbairn said giving British business groups a formal role in trade talks would make a huge difference.

“The idea of the joint problem solving that a team of all talents could do has been proven around the world, so again it’s another thing to just get on and do,” she said.

Reporting by Andy Bruce Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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