LONDON — Neither of the two main candidates for prime minister is an obvious choice for Britain’s business community.
The incumbent, Boris Johnson, used an expletive last year to describe his reaction to business concerns about Brexit, and has unnerved businesspeople with his determination to plow ahead with leaving the European Union with or without an agreement.
His challenger, Jeremy Corbyn, has gone even further, alarming some businesses with proposals to nationalize some industries.
But both took to a stage on Monday to try to assure members of the Confederation of British Industry, Britain’s biggest business association, that they are supportive of businesses.
At stake in the general election on Dec. 12 is control of Parliament’s House of Commons. Mr. Johnson is trying to expand on the Conservative Party’s narrow hold on power, while Mr. Corbyn’s Labour Party is hoping to steal seats away. Both want a mandate for their Brexit plans.
The Labour Party caused a stir last week by announcing that it would provide free broadband to every home and business across the country by bringing parts of a privatized telecom company into state ownership. Labour has also proposed nationalizing other services, including rail and utility companies.
The proposal prompted Matthew Fell, a policy director for the business group, to say Labour’s “radical renationalization plans” would cause “firms around the world to lose confidence in the U.K. as a place to invest safely.”
In Mr. Johnson’s speech on Monday, he promised a package of tax cuts designed to entice businesses to support his party but said a further cut to the corporation tax would be postponed. Money designated to finance that tax cut would instead be directed to the National Health Service, he said.
“Before you storm the stage and protest,” Mr. Johnson said, “let me remind you this saves 6 million pounds that we can put into the priorities of the British people.”
The National Health Service has become a battleground in the election as Labour candidates have accused the Conservative Party of trying to sell it off as part of a trade deal with the United States. Mr. Corbyn said the health agency would be excluded from any trade deals if he won.
Mr. Johnson pledged to lower business tax rates — those taxes based on the size of property a company occupies — in an effort to stimulate small and medium-size businesses.
The British Retail Consortium, representing many shop owners, welcomed the announcement, but said it needed more from the government. Tax rate cuts, said Helen Dickinson, the group’s chief executive, would not slow the economic decline in some towns “that has seen many household names disappear in recent years.”
Mr. Johnson insisted that his party would seal the deal on Brexit, while accusing Mr. Corbyn of delaying Britain’s departure.
“The only hard fact that has swum like flotsam from the Bermuda Triangle of Labour’s Brexit policy is that they want more delay,” Mr. Johnson said. Mr. Corbyn has said he would renegotiate the deal and then allow the public to vote on it, a position that Mr. Johnson said was like “dying Virgil urging his friends to burn ‘The Aeneid,’” an ancient literary allusion that was met with silence at the forum.
Mr. Corbyn, for his part, tried to repair any sense that his policies have caused resentment in the corporate community.
“It is sometimes claimed that I am anti-business,” he said. “Actually this is nonsense.”
Mr. Corbyn appealed to the attendees by promising the “certainty of a customs union and access to the single market” after Brexit, and said he would wrap up Brexit negotiations quickly.
But he made no apologies for wanting to bring some services into state ownership, because that is part of his plan to tackle inequality, he said. “I just want to live in a decent society, and I know you do, too,” he said.
Mr. Corbyn said that once Brexit was settled, his party intended to put hundreds of billions of pounds into green investments and a social transformation fund. He also said he would offer 320,000 “climate apprenticeships” to help workers get the right skills to work in a greener economy.
Although the Confederation of British Industry supported the prospect of more training, Mr. Corbyn’s pitch did not reassure it.
“False instincts for mass nationalizations” will do little more than “frighten off investors from backing the U.K.,” the group’s director general, Carolyn Fairbairn, said in a statement.
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