Wednesday 17 October 2018

It’s time for Theresa May to use her secret Brexit weapon: business

Two weeks ago, I was in Birmingham among my fellow Conservatives awaiting Theresa May’s closing conference speech. I expected her to take a strong stance on the Chequers-based plan for Brexit and finally call upon her most valuable and underused supporters – business leaders – to champion her vision, not least because I and my business colleagues across industries have been suggesting this for months.

Since she became Prime Minister, May has governed with a small team working in silo on the biggest upheaval facing Britain in generations. Her style has been presidential, depriving herself of broad support because she would not trust a big inclusive team.

While the Chequers proposal does require some compromises and is no paragon of perfection at this stage, it is the only plan that will ensure Britain does not catapult into a no-deal scenario. No matter the internal fighting, as the leader of the party of business, May has always had a secret weapon in the private sector to fall back on. Now is the time to use it. May needs not just a single business adviser, but dozens in each department – including Number 10.

May therefore needs to position Chequers to business leaders as a feasible deal, offering us something tangible to support. Without broad business backing, May is too weak to secure the best Brexit for the British people and economy. She is quickly running out of time to utilise her most powerful asset.


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