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Lobby groups Make UK and CBI in possible merger talks

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The self-styled “voice of British business” and the manufacturers’ group Make UK have confirmed they are in talks about areas of potential collaboration that could lead to a full-blown merger.

“Make UK and the CBI are in early-stage discussions to explore how the two parties might work closer together,” Make UK, which speaks for 20,000 companies and three million people in the manufacturing and engineering sectors, told Sky News. “These discussions are positive and constructive but remain at an early stage.”

The CBI issued a virtually identical statement.

The beleaguered business leaders lobby group considered winding itself up this year after being embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct, a saga that led to the departure of Tony Danker, its director-general, and resignations in protest by members including Aviva, John Lewis and NatWest.

Rain Newton-Smith, 48, was appointed as Danker’s successor in April having previously been the CBI’s chief economist for nine years.

Members voted in June for the group to survive in a revamped form. While the cuts would affect fewer than ten jobs, the move was seen as being symbolic of the retrenchment taking place at what was for decades Britain’s foremost business representative group.

The employers’ body has confirmed it is closing offices in Washington, Beijing and Delhi, leaving it with only one overseas presence, in Brussels.

It was unclear last night how a formal merger would work, whether the CBI’s name would disappear in favour of Make UK’s or how a combined organisation would represent non-manufacturing businesses.

Founded in 1965, the CBI, previously known as the Confederation of British Industry, now claims to speak for 170,000 businesses, from 190,000 in April. In June members voted 93 per cent for the organisation to carry on with reformed governance and culture.

Fox Williams, a law firm, was appointed to carry out an independent investigation and several people were dismissed by the CBI.

Danker has said he will sue the organisation after being made the “fall guy” for serious misconduct allegations that pre-dated his tenure.

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