CBI opts for strong and stable leadership with Drechsler extension

Britain’s biggest business lobbying group is poised to grant its president an unprecedented third year at its helm amid deepening anxiety in the private sector about the likely progress of the Government’s Brexit negotiations.

Sky News understands that the CBI will announce later on Friday that Paul Drechsler has secured the support of the organisation’s board and influential chairs’ committee to serve for a third year.

The move will see Mr Drechsler’s appointment voted on by members – who were notified of the latest developments earlier this week – at next month’s annual meeting.

It follows Privy Council approval for an amendment to the bye-laws of its Supplemental Royal Charter, enabling Mr Drechsler to stand for a third one-year term.

While the CBI director‎-general – currently Carolyn Fairbairn – is appointed for a five-year term, its president serves for two years.

Sources said the dominance of the Brexit agenda during negotiations with the EU which kick off next week meant that a desire for leadership continuity had been expressed by many CBI members.

If approved by members, Mr Drechsler would step down as the CBI president in 2018 but could potentially continue to serve on its board as deputy president, a source added.

Last week’s inconclusive General Election result has heightened concerns among many bosses about the likely trajectory of the UK economy.

However, it has also emboldened those who want the Government to pursue a so-called ‘soft Brexit’ approach to the talks with Europe, potentially preserving some single market or customs union access.

The‎ CBI, which has 190,000 members encompassing businesses of all sizes, found itself at the centre of a political storm last year when it argued strongly in favour of the Remain campaign.

Its annual conference in November 2015 was ambushed by Leave campaigners while David Cameron, the then prime minister, was on the stage, and since the Brexit vote has seen prominent members such as JCB terminate their membership in protest.

Mr Drechsler is well regarded in the business community, recently using the CBI presidency to urge private sector bosses to show restraint on executive pay‎.

He recently warned that Brexit‎ without a trade deal would expose businesses to a “Pandora’s box” of damaging economic consequences.

A CBI spokeswoman confirmed that a statement would be made later on Friday.

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