Jeremy Corbyn sought to claim “common ground” with the UK’s business leaders, as he set out his plans for a new economic model which could leave them facing higher taxes.
The Labour leader told the CBI annual conference his party shared their concerns over Brexit, infrastructure investment and training.
But he told business leaders his plans would involve raising taxes, and defended Labour’s goal of nationalising key parts of the economy.
And he said workers should be given a pay rise after years of seeing incomes squeezed following the financial crash.
In his keynote speech, Mr Corbyn said: “We all know an economic model that allows a few to grow very rich while the majority face falling incomes and rising indebtedness; that leaves too many people in unfulfilling and insecure work; that is overly reliant on one sector in one region of our country, is neither stable nor sustainable.”
Telling bosses that “Britain needs a pay rise”, he said: “When too much of household income is going to pay debts or rent, that’s less money for consumers to spend on productive businesses.
“That’s why Labour backs a real living wage and sensible controls on rents and debts.”
On Brexit, Mr Corbyn said the negotiations were “stuck in stalemate” and mired in “chaos and confusion”.
“Many of you probably feel that the situation is more uncertain and precarious than ever,” he said.
“Time is running out. We know, as you do, that firms are deciding now whether to continue to invest in the UK, and that guarantees in key areas are needed now to stop firms from cutting the UK out of their business models.”
He warned that a “no deal” situation, leaving the European Union and falling back on World Trade Organisation terms, would be a “nightmare scenario”.
Mr Corbyn said: “What will be determined in the next two years is not just our relationship with the EU, but the kind of economy – and country – we want to live in.
“A bad Brexit deal risks exacerbating existing weaknesses in our economy – low investment, low productivity, low pay.
“We will be letting the country down if we don’t seize on this period of change to tackle those weaknesses at their root causes by working together to give shape to a new economic model that will create a fairer, richer Britain for all.”
Setting out Labour’s plans, Mr Corbyn said it would mean having to “raise some taxes to pay for it” but “a fair and functional taxation system is the only way to deliver the investment in infrastructure and skills that are so desperately needed across the country”.
He also defended Labour’s goal of taking infrastructure, including the railways and energy firms, back under public control.
He said: “This isn’t about being anti-business, anti-enterprise, or about closing ourselves off to the rest of the world.
“It is about deciding to attract business from across the world by creating world-class infrastructure that is efficiently funded, cheap and reliable energy, safe and efficient water and transport systems and a skilled and educated population.
“Not by allowing a select few to make monopoly profits from our essential utilities.
“This isn’t a throwback to a bygone era; it’s entirely in step with what is happening in the rest of the world.
“Some of the world’s biggest economies – Germany, France, even the United States, are deciding that key sectors such as energy and water are better off in public ownership.
“It’s time for Britain to catch up.”
Mr Corbyn also defended the importance of the green belt as he called for the UK’s housing crisis to be solved without bulldozing the countryside.
“If you take away this cordon of green space and cleaner air around big cities then we have the danger of massive ribbon developments,” he warned.