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Cabinet split harming business, says British Chambers of Commerce

Boris Johnson arrives at the Conservative conference on SundayImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

Boris Johnson has described the cabinet as a “nest of singing birds”

Public disagreements between cabinet ministers are undermining business confidence, the British Chambers of Commerce has warned.

Business leaders are “growing impatient with division” at the heart of the government, particularly around the Brexit process, the group said.

It called for ministers attending the Conservative party conference to show “competence and coherence”.

Theresa May has said the cabinet is united on the UK’s Brexit position.

The prime minister said on Sunday that the cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, had agreed to the Brexit plans set out in her speech in Italy last month.

However, the Chambers of Commerce, made of business leaders who employ nearly six million people between them, flagged ongoing business concerns about splits within government.

The organisation’s director general Adam Marshall said: “Public disagreements between cabinet ministers in recent weeks have only served to undermine business confidence, not just on Brexit negotiations.”

Firms also want clear action on cutting business costs, building key infrastructure, helping firms plug skills gaps, and support for investment.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) called for Chancellor Philip Hammond to boost private-sector investment, ahead of his speech at the party conference.

Mr Hammond is set to announce an extra £300m to improve rail links in the north of England.

Media captionTheresa May: Cabinet agreed to Brexit position

IoD director general Stephen Martin pointed to a survey it has carried out that suggests business optimism has declined since the start of the year.

He said it showed “that businesses are not immune to their political surroundings and confidence cannot be taken for granted”.

The prime minister was asked on Sunday if there were splits in her party, after another intervention by the foreign secretary over Brexit.

“What I have is a cabinet that are united in the mission of this government,” Mrs May told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“That’s what you will see this week – united in the mission to build a country that works for everyone and agreed on the approach we took in Florence.”

Mr Johnson’s interview for The Sun – in which he said Mrs May’s planned transition phase must not last “a second more” than two years – was the second time in a fortnight he had set out his own vision for Brexit.

The prime minister said Mr Johnson was “absolutely behind” her Brexit plans, but sidestepped a question about whether he was “unsackable”.

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