There are valid criticisms that can be made of the government’s approach to the Brexit negotiations, but one oft-repeated attack is wearing a bit thin.
“The government is ignoring the business community” is a charge levelled almost daily – sometimes by political opponents, sometimes by pundits and sometimes (it must be said) by businesses themselves. But this simplistic criticism masks a more complex reality.
While it’s true that the early (pre-election catastrophe) May government was decidedly cool on business, much has changed since then. Firstly, cabinet ministers with a natural understanding of business have been flexing their muscles.
Just last week chancellor Philip Hammond told the City he was determined to secure “a bespoke deal” for financial services – a message that Downing St would never have sanctioned at the start of this year. In addition to this change of tone, the business and Brexit secretaries have embraced the business groups in a series of regular meetings while David Davis hosts high-level executives for talks.
Furthermore, a new team in No 10 has ensured that the government is now publicly courting the business community, and those tasked with business relations have the freedom to operate.
Of course, this flurry of engagement doesn’t necessarily ensure that the business community gets all the answers it wants, or that it likes what it hears. Indeed, the concerns are very real, particularly on matters such as customs, transition and market access.
On the latter, financial and professional services groups are taking matters into their own hands, beavering away on the details of a post-Brexit deal on the understanding that it will be of use to ministers once talks progress to trade.
So we should recognise that government-business relations have improved, and we should expect that this leads to meaningful progress on key issues.