Before the election in 2015, David Cameron was very vocal about his view that the government needs to ‘live within its means’. This was a clear dig at the over expenditure of many politicians. Recently, the Queen referred to this idea of cutting costs to provide a more cost efficient government. What does this mean exactly for your own business or company?
Reactions to the Queen’s Speech
Theresa May has been challenged by corporate leaders for not being as “plugged in” to business as previous incumbents. However, the speech illustrated a welcome change of tone, acknowledging the value of enterprise to the country and the importance of including businesses in discussions about what Britain’s future should look like.
As the dust settles, there will be much point-scoring over what is or is not in the Queen’s Speech, but a parliament devoid of distractions is a parliament business leaders will welcome. They don’t want politicians to score political points, but to get on with the job and give them much needed certainty.
Confidence amongst members of the Institute of Directors is lower than we would like it to be going into Brexit negotiations. Those building businesses across the country will expect cross-party support to boost our global competitiveness. Where possible, politicians across the political spectrum should work together on issues such as tacking the skills shortage and focusing on delivering the most pragmatic, open and global Brexit possible. This would signal to industry that they intend on putting the economy first.
The role of Brexit
Brexit was rightly the centrepiece of the 27 bills and draft bills unveiled, but it is unlikely the process of getting related legislation through parliament will be as smooth as it was presented. Businesses will be looking forward to some of the pro-active engagement outlined in the speech. Priorities for firms across the UK remain reaching an early agreement on transitional provisions and introducing a simplified system for EEA nationals to apply for permanent residency, many of whom are employed by or run UK companies themselves.
Businesses will also need to know, sooner rather than later, whether there will be substantive changes to trade and migration arrangements in order to have time to activate any contingency plans.
It is, however, welcome that the government has acknowledged there is more than just Brexit on the agenda. The political clock is ticking. More clarity on future tax measures and on potential trading arrangements would have been useful to businesses to plan, and it is disappointing that corporate governance reform was not explicitly mentioned.
What does the future hold
The speech was as good for the bills it did include as for those it did not. Specifically, Conservative manifesto promises of slashing immigration to “tens of thousands”, as well as scrapping the creation of new grammar schools. On the latter, during the election campaign, the IoD argued that the incoming government should avoid unnecessary distractions and focus on more pressing concerns, such as tackling the teacher shortage crisis. The lack of teachers in key subjects including science and maths threatens to have detrimental knock-on effects on the pipeline of graduate talent that employers need.
It is clear to everyone that the next decade or two will not be plain sailing by any means. There are lots of uncertainties around the corner. We just hope that the current ministers can keep themselves focused and have UK based businesses in mind when casting their votes in parliament. I personally urge the government to consult even closer with businesses when planning for the future of the country.