Business and energy secretary Greg Clark has hinted at the prospect of fresh British interventionism by welcoming freedom from EU state aid rules.
Clark is helming the newly created department of business, energy and industrial strategy, and its creation has led some to question whether Theresa May is set to take a more active approach in intervening in failing industries.
Speaking today at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Clark said that state aid rules represented “a thicket of questions” in the aftermath of the UK’s Brexit vote.
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However, he noted: “I hope that one of the freedoms that will come from Brexit will be to enable us to determine our own view of that rather than having to comply with others.”
The creation of the BEIS department has also seen MPs question what is meant by "industrial strategy", with the parliamentary committee responsible for monitoring the old Business, Innovation and Skills department immediately announcing its own investigation.
However, Clark said that all governments have an industrial strategy, adding the Prime Minister had simply made this explicit in the branding of the new BEIS department.
He added the government would aim to see successful industries “gather force, rather than dissipate”, although Clark cautioned it would not be “a strategy of incumbency”.
And Clark also stressed that his work would be focused on geographies, rather than industries, arguing that “there has been a tendency in governments over the years to see the country as uniform”.
However he admitted there will be crossover between the two when certain sectors are dominant in specific regions: “Any strategy that includes a sense of greater decision making in the West Midlands is going to have advanced manufacturing as an important part of that.”
Clark was handed the job of leading the BEIS department in May's first cabinet earlier this summer in a job swap with the former business secretary Sajid Javid, who now leads Clark's former team in communities and local government.