U.K. Plc Doesn't Care About No Invite to Brexit Czar's Retreat

  • Meeting at Chevening in the English countryside is next Friday
  • Aviva, Burberry and Barclays in: top lobby groups are out

It was the hot ticket in July when Brexit Secretary David Davis gathered business leaders around him at a country retreat. This time round, those representing U.K. Plc are unfazed at not being invited.

The country’s five main business associations -- the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the manufacturing lobby EEF -- are all missing from the guest list for the next Friday’s rendez-vous at Chevening.

Executives from companies including EY, Aviva Plc, Barclays Plc and Burberry Plc are invited, according to Sky News, which reported the lobby groups being “frozen out.”

Not true, they would argue. They don’t see their exclusion as a snub, because engagement between businesses and government ministers has increased since Prime Minister Theresa May frittered away her majority at the snap general election in June.

“We’ve been told that they are rotating the attendance at Chevening,” said Edwin Morgan, deputy director of policy at the Institute of Directors. “We’re not concerned about not coming to this one because the level of engagement with ministers is very good.”

They’re happy with regular meetings they hold with Davis, as well as with Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

Davis’s department declined to confirm the list of attendees.

Indeed, two days before the Chevening get-together, there will be a gathering of the EU Exit Business Advisory Group, set up in the wake of the election to hold meetings every two weeks between Clark, Hammond, Davis and business leaders, including the five lobby groups.

“We have plenty of access to all of the government departments on a regular basis,” said Mark Swift, a spokesman for the EEF. He said the group is “fine” with not getting face-time this time around.

The FSB, for its part, said it’s “vital” that meetings such as the Chevening gathering don’t just include large corporations. “As a result we have successfully worked with government to nominate small business owners to attend Chevening summits,” FSB Chairman Mike Cherry said in an email.

— With assistance by Robert Hutton

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