Business leaders will hold separate talks with two Cabinet ministers on Monday, offering a further indication that Theresa May’s chastened administration is determined to shake off its perceived pre-election antipathy towards the private sector.
Sky News has learnt that Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, and Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, will meet representatives of groups including the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce.
The meetings follow a four-hour summit on Friday at Chevening, the country residence traditionally used by the Foreign Secretary, between big company bosses and ministers led by David Davis, the Brexit Secretary.
Theresa May has faced intense criticism over her perceived reluctance to engage with business leaders anxious that the Government’s Brexit negotiating strategy will lead to huge disadvantages for British industry.
Sources said Ms Rudd’s meeting on Monday evening would be “an important staging post” for the private sector to set out its concerns about terminating the free movement of labour and Mrs May’s initial offer to the European Union on citizens’ rights.
One FTSE-100 company chief executive said there was deep concern about the ability of sectors such as agriculture, food retailing and healthcare to continue recruiting staff under the current proposals.
They added that a two-tier system under which skilled jobs would enjoy greater protections risked harming those industries seen as employing lower-skilled workers.
The EU wants all its citizens to continue to hold all EU rights for as long as they live in the UK, and Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, has branded Mrs May’s offer akin to creating “a second class of citizenship”.
Mr Fox, meanwhile, will hold a round-table discussion with business groups including the Institute of Directors and the EEF, the manufacturers’ trade body.
His meeting is part of an ongoing programme of engagement with stakeholders, according to a source at the DIT.
The Prime Minister has been hit by an exodus of business liaison personnel from Downing Street since last month’s snap election, further disenchanting businesses that say they have had little access to her administration during her first year in charge.
Mrs May axed David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group shortly after replacing him, but has relented by agreeing to the formation of a Brexit committee including Cabinet ministers and business leaders.
Last week, the CBI urged the Government to keep the UK in the EU single market and customs union until a final Brexit deal is in place.