Good afternoon everyone, and thank you all for coming.
Following last week’s historic decision by the British people, I’ve just chaired a meeting of the chairs of UK’s largest business organisations, and CEOs and senior representatives from many of our biggest employers.
My message for them was very clear. Britain is open for business.
Yes, the financial markets are still reacting to the result.
But the fundamental facts remain unchanged.
The UK is still a member of the European Union, and still a member of the single market.
Employment is still at a record high.
And this government is still 100% committed to making the UK the best place in Europe to start and grow a business.
None of this has changed on Friday morning.
None of this will change overnight.
This is not the time for hasty decisions that will be regretted later.
Rather, it is the time for government to work with businesses large and small up and down the country so they don’t just deal with the challenges that the result brings, but are also able to embrace the opportunities that it creates.
The biggest issue raised was the need to secure continued access to the single market.
While I’m not in a position to make promises, I assured everyone that my number one priority will be just that in the negotiations to come.
I also set out the wide-ranging, globe-spanning process of engagement that has been underway at my department since the result became known.
I’ve personally been in regular contact with many CEOs and business leaders, a process that will continue in the days and weeks that lie ahead.
Trade Minister Lord Price is in contact with many of Britain’s biggest inward investors.
Over the next few months he will be visiting key overseas markets including China, Hong Kong and Brazil and reminding firms there that the UK is still very much open for business, just as before.
My department already has a single, named contact minister for more than 80 of Britain’s top inward investors and exporters.
I’m ensuring that they will make contact with all of their companies over the next few weeks.
Similarly, the Prime Minister’s business ambassadors and trade envoys, drawn from across the business world and political spectrum, are out there representing the UK in the key markets and sectors around the world.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) our international trade promotion body, has a presence in more than 100 markets around the world.
I’ve instructed all the heads of UKTI to engage with the key investors locally to reassure them that the UK remains open for business and an attractive inward investment destination.
Between now and the end of the year I will be leading a series of trade missions in order to communicate that message myself.
Our unrivalled network of ambassadors and high commissioners have been reaching out to their local governments.
In the past 48 hours we’ve heard senior politicians in Australia and South Korea calling for immediate talks on trade deals with the UK.
Of course, the impact of last week’s vote will not just be felt among exporters and foreign investors.
Across the country there are millions of businesses, large and small, that are not directly trading into EU, but who also have questions.
In the weeks to come my ministerial team and I will be visiting businesses right across the country.
This is not just about big business and not just about London.
And I’m delighted that at today’s meeting the heads of the largest business organisations - the CBI, IoD, FSB, BCC and EEF - they all agreed to work together with the government to provide consistent support and advice for their members.
As I’ve said before, we have to collaborate to ensure the best outcomes.
Unions also have an important role to play.
And I will be speaking to the TUC’s Frances O’Grady this afternoon to discuss the best way to engage and work with them.
Over the past few days the main aim has been to reassure business.
But we’ve also received plenty of reassurance from business.
Investors have reaffirmed their commitment to the UK.
For example, Huawei has today confirmed to government that its planned £1.3 billion investment in the UK will go ahead.
The referendum will make no difference to that commitment.
Numerous other companies have offered us staff to help with negotiations.
We’ve had offers of support with surveys and intelligence gathering.
Again and again we have heard business leaders mirroring the government’s position – that they are determined to make this work.
Although many were shocked by the result, they are all doing what British businesses have always done.
They are adapting, they are innovating, they are rising to the challenge.
Finally, let me remind all of Britain’s businesses that, even in the face of market volatility, our economy remains fundamentally strong.
The deficit is down, employment is up, Britain is home to more private businesses than at any point in its history.
There will be challenging times ahead, of course, but we are more than well-placed to get through them.
There is much more to be done in the weeks and months that lie ahead.
And I look forward to working with businesses of all sizes.