With Theresa May set to take office from David Cameron tomorrow what will this leadership change mean for Brexit and British business? We can draw some conclusions from her campaign speech in Birmingham yesterday.
Firstly, Theresa May emphasised that ‘Brexit will mean Brexit’. With the UK’s vote to leave the EU proving divisive, Mrs May appears to have quashed any hopes for a second referendum, or the possibility of re-joining the EU ‘through the back door’. She called on business leaders to put complaints aside and begin to realise the potential for new business opportunities. Adopting a more positive outlook she stated: ‘we’re going to make a success of it’.
However, whilst pledging to ‘negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the EU’, and to ‘forge a new role for ourselves in the world,’ she did indicate her own vision beyond promising to unite leavers and remainers under her leadership.
Beyond Brexit, May’s ‘stop complaining, start acting’ position extends to business, suggesting: ‘it is not anti-business to suggest that big business needs to changes.’ ‘An economy that works for everyone’ was another key message, with changes to corporate governance reform appearing central to her industrial strategy.
Mrs May stated that we can expect to see greater distance between government and big business. Echoing the Brexit Leave campaign’s ‘Take Back Control’ slogan, May insisted: ‘we are going to need to give people more control… and that means cutting out all the political platitudes about “stakeholder societies”.’ As an example of this, she called for company boards to include both workers and consumer representatives in order to generate greater corporate scrutiny.
Corporate pay was also pinpointed as an area of reform. Firstly, she critiqued the disproportionate rise in corporate pay relative to trade and called for full disclose of bonus targets and the publication of ‘pay multiple’ data. Further, she highlighted her support for shareholder votes on corporate pay to be made binding and not just advisory. Finally, she suggested re-orientating business focus and bonus incentive towards long-term interests and away from short term gain.
Finally, she warned government would become more willing to use and reform competition law to combat market abuse. She also signalled a tougher stance on corporate tax, pledging to ‘crack down on individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion.’