Last week, the Prime Minister outlined how the UK can make a success of Brexit and how the strength of our economy will be crucial to that success. Leaving the EU can be a catalyst to drive both improvements in productivity and to spread wealth and opportunity more evenly and fairly across the country.
Throughout London and the south east there are plenty of industry success stories. The capital, once one of the least productive parts of the country, has seen employment rise significantly, unemployment cut by nearly 130,000 with hundreds of thousands of new small businesses founded – all in the last seven years.
The south east, the gateway to London and the world, will experience similar achievements: its local growth deal will create 45,000 jobs, allow more than 23,000 homes to be built and will generate up to £190m of investment.
But not every part of the country has seen such success; the productivity gap between Maidstone and Manchester has been widening for decades.
Too many people in too many places have been forgotten, left behind.
We need an economy that delivers high wages, high skills, high productivity, an economy that creates the conditions for competitive, world-leading businesses right across the UK.
That is why the government is committed to a modern industrial strategy.
It’s the beginning of an open dialogue to develop this strategy as the enduring foundation of an economy that works for everyone and drives growth across the whole country.
We start from a position of strength. We’re the fifth biggest economy in the world, we have more people in employment than any other time and we are at the forefront of many industries – from car manufacturing and satellite engineering, to financial services, life sciences and the arts.
This can be seen across the capital: London is now the home to Google and Facebook and last week Barking became the destination for a brand new transcontinental trade rail link between the UK and China.
We must build on these strengths but we must also address our challenges.
Our vision for an industrial strategy is one that builds on our strengths and extends excellence into the future, closes the gap between the most productive companies, industries, places and people and the rest and makes the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business.
Many of the tech giants that have chosen to grow their businesses in London didn’t even exist a few decades ago. It is vital that our industrial strategy encourages new enterprise, developing new technologies such as robotics, cell and gene therapy and artificial intelligence. It must be about the future not the past.
Only five months in, this government has made big decisions that put the UK on the front foot.
Whether it’s the nuclear power station at Hinkley, the third runway at Heathrow or supporting High Speed 2, as well as investing more in research, development and skills, we are becoming more economically competitive.
Our industrial strategy will make us more so but “how” this is done won’t be decided in a vacuum in Westminster.
It should take place with, and not just for, British enterprise. The full involvement of innovators, investors, job creators, workers, entrepreneurs and consumers is the only basis on which we can produce an enduring programme of action.
That is why this is a consultation – a set of proposals for discussion and consideration, and an invitation to others to contribute collaboratively to their development.
This is an opportunity to play a part in securing Britain’s future prosperity.