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Leading trade bodies in talks to fill void left by CBI implosion

Leading trade bodies in talks to fill void left by CBI implosion

The British Retail Consortium, Energy UK and UK Hospitality are among the groups in talks to forge closer ties amid the crisis at Britain's biggest business group.
A group of Britain's most influential trade associations are in talks about forging closer ties as they try to navigate the crisis engulfing the CBI.

Sky News has learnt that groups including the British Retail Consortium, Energy UK, the Food and Drink Federation, TheCityUK and UKHospitality have held a series of discussions this week about creating a new vehicle to discuss economic matters.

BuildUK, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and TechUK are also involved in the discussions, according to insiders.

Their objective is not to create a new independent body, sources insisted on Friday, but to ensure a coordinated voice on important economy-wide issues.

Government officials have been notified about the prospective closer collaboration between the groups, all of which are themselves CBI members.

The talks underline the scale of the challenge facing the CBI as it battles for survival over its handling of a sexual misconduct crisis.

Last week, dozens of members including Aviva, Fidelity International, John Lewis Partnership and NatWest Group terminated their CBI memberships, with many others suspending their engagement with the business group.

The government and the Labour Party have also ceased discussions with the CBI until investigations into alleged incidents of rape, sexual misconduct and bullying are completed.

One person involved in the trade association talks said that if they progressed successfully, it would be "another nail in the CBI's coffin".

Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, one of the bodies said: "The major trade bodies covering the key sectors of the economy already engage collaboratively and closely on cross-sectoral issues affecting their members.

"We have enjoyed a close working relationship throughout Brexit and the pandemic, to ensure that the concerns and interests of the majority of businesses - and the workers they employ and consumers they serve - are understood and to work on shared solutions to common challenges.

"This positive dialogue has been ongoing and often facilitated by the CBI and will be continuing on a regular basis going forward."

The CBI's new director-general, Rain Newton-Smith, told Sky News' business correspondent Paul Kelso this week she was "confident" that the group would survive.

"It's not going to be the same CBI that we've seen over the past few weeks for sure, it's not going to be the same organisation.

"We have to completely change and we will."

Ms Newton-Smith's predecessor, Tony Danker, was sacked earlier this month when the CBI said he had lost the confidence of its board after a string of allegations about his personal conduct.

He subsequently accused the group of "throwing me under a bus".

The CBI said this week that a number of employees had left the organisation but declined to provide further details.

Last weekend, Sky News revealed that a temporary new body, provisionally called BizUK, was being set up to facilitate dialogue between major companies and the government in the run-up to the next general election.

Its work intends to focus on four core areas: skills and productivity; trade and investment; science and technology; and energy security and decarbonisation.

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