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8 reasons the Conservatives are no longer the party of business

October 7, 2016 12:01 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Conservative Party has long claimed to be the Party of businesses -but, their track record since May 2015 shows that they are now anything but.

Brexit represents a massive threat to businesses and jobs, but Theresa May's Government keep sending mixed messages about vital trade relationships and our Membership of the Single Market.

But it's not just Brexit that's undermining the Conservative's claim to be the party of business. By putting in place new and unnecessary taxes and failing to tackle the real concerns of hundreds of thousands of business across the UK their agenda that is harming businesses ability to grow.

Here's 8 reasons why the Conservatives are no longer the party of business:

1: They are ignoring business on Brexit...

The CBI has been clear that businesses need "stability and clarity" about what a post-Brexit deal would look like. However, after over three months since the referendum, the Government has so far failed to answer any of the key questions including:

  • Whether they support membership of the Single Market
  • Whether they intend to remain part of the Custom's Union
  • Whether they will guarantee the long term future of projects currently funded by the EU
  • Whether they will protect essential parts of single market members, like passporting for financial services, or membership of the European Aviation Safety Agency, which controls aircraft standards, for the aviation industry.

It's just not good enough. They aren't listening to the concerns of businesses...

2: ….and it's clear they've got no plan for Brexit either.

The Conservatives are all over the shop on Brexit. David Davis said it was "very unlikely" that the UK would remain in the Single Market, before being 'slapped down' by Theresa May.

Liam Fox briefed the press that he would tell the WTO Britain would seek full membership - meaning leaving the customs unions, before watering down his actual speech a few days later. He also had to withdraw press releases claiming we would leave the Customs Union.

The Foreign Secretary has officially lent his support to the group campaigning for 'Hard Brexit'- despite there being no collective agreement.

In the meantime, the Chancellor is fighting a lonely rear-guard action against Hard Brexit, and is reported to be on the verge of giving up.

And there's still no plan. For all the hot air the "Three Brexiteers" have generated since the referendum, we're still no closer to knowing what this all means for British business, or the UK - though, there's certainly one direction of travel they'd clearly like to do in. Hard Brexit.

3: Hard Brexit means serious consequences for Britain

With speculation over Hard Brexit increasing, thanks to the maneuvers of the "three Brexiteers", the pound has fallen even further - dropping significantly against other currencies, hitting its lowest point since it's low in August- which was the lowest the pound has been since 2013.

Both PWC and the CBI estimate that the 'Hard Brexit' option of relying on WTO rules would mean big falls in the UK's GDP and create a huge black hole of £27 billion in Government finances.

Hard Brexit, and reliance on WTO rules would mean that the EU would legally have to impose tariffs on the UK for trading with the single market - which would mean higher prices and make it harder for British based businesses to compete with companies on the continent.

Hard Brexit would be devastating for British businesses and our economy, yet the Conservatives key players in the Brexit negotiations just can't stop themselves from flirting with the idea.

4: Theresa May is losing advisors, fast

Just last week Theresa May scrapped a key business advisory group, set up by David Cameron, to ensure he heard from business. She also lost her most respected Treasury Minister, Jim O'Neil, in large part because he feels 'less plugged in' than in the past.

5: Liam Fox & David Davis's "charm offensive"

Over the last few weeks, Liam Fox and David Davis have been on a real "charm offensive" with British businesses. Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary got the ball rolling by calling owners 'lazy' and more eager to spent time on the golf course than growing their business.

Meanwhile, David Davies insulted retail bosses by giving just a weeks' notice of a roundtable to discuss Brexit, view by some of those invited as a 'tick box exercise'. In the end Retail leaders chose to snub the Brexit Minister.

6: They are imposing more and more burdens on business.

Last week the Government issued its consultation on revaluation of business rates (in England). The proposed changes will mean one in four businesses have significantly higher rates and could see rates for the biggest firms increase by up to 45% next year.

Theresa May is ploughing ahead with plans for an Apprenticeship Levy that will disadvantage small businesses ability to access training funds - and some estimate could cost British businesses as much as £12 billion.

Things are so bad, that in December 2015 the Director General of the CBI warned that Conservative's 'short-term politics' risked damaging growth.

7: This is all having a real impact, now.

All this turmoil is already having an impact on British businesses. Since May 2015, the data for key sectors that underpin the UK economy has been steadily weakening.

The Construction Sector has shrunk in three of the last four quarters, since Conservatives took majority Government.
The production sector also slipped into recession before Brexit- between the last Quarter of 2015 and the First of 2016.
The services sector has not grown at all since May 2015.

Business Confidence has been declining ever since the end of 2015, and domestic sales especially have plummeted. All this, risks doing major damage to our economy and undoing all of the hard work done to pull our economy back from the brink.

8: To top it all off, Conservative policies are damaging successful industries:

Since May 2015, the Conservatives have continuously undermined successful industries - especially the renewables sector. Since May 2015, the Conservatives have:

Cut wind and solar 'Feed in Tariffs', increasing the cost of business and likely to lead to more than 19,000 job losses.
Removed the exemption for renewables businesses from the Climate Change Levy- increasing costs on business yet again. By 2020, this could cost businesses as much as £1 billion.
Sat by and watched as their policies have led to 12,500 job losses in the last year in the solar industry alone.

During the coalition Government, we ensured that the renewables sector was given the support it needed to grow and compete globally - but since 2015, the Conservatives have ripped up all of that hard work.

That's why the Conservatives are no longer the party of business:

The evidence is clear. At a time when businesses need confidence and stability, the Conservative attitude is to belittle and mislead them. They are imposing new burdens and ignoring the urgent calls of business for sense on Brexit.

With Jeremy Corbyn's Labour renewing their attack on the free market under John McDonnell, it's increasingly clear that only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to work with business, champion their interests, and put in place the stable, growing economy they need to succeed.

The simple fact is we are the only pro-free trade, pro-single market, pro-business party left in British politics.