There are some key voices in the Brexit debate that don’t get much of a look-in as we obsess over Boris Johnson’s manoeuvres and the minutiae of the government’s thinking.
I’m referring to the voices of European businesses – and not just the car giants but the small exporters and manufacturers who depend upon easy access to the UK market as much as our own firms rely on access to the EU.
We’re often as guilty of this omission as much as any other media outlet, prioritising domestic concerns which already compete for space and coverage. We did, however, report this week on the findings of a major survey of EU businesses carried out by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe, that found a mighty 92 per cent of EU firms said it was vital for their governments to negotiate a deal with the UK that did not increase barriers to trade. Alarmingly, only 27 per cent had faith in their government to take this view into account.
So it’s timely to learn that Theresa May intends to deal directly with EU heads of state in a bid to break the Brexit impasse after delivering her speech in Florence today. In doing so, she will build on the quiet work of Brexit Secretary David Davis who has, for some time, been meeting key regional and local politicians on the continent.
Newsnight reported yesterday, in a rare exploration of the views of EU businesses, that the head of the Flemish government and the head of the French Hauts-de-France region have both been pushing Brussels to change its tone. The Flemish leader pointed out that 45 per cent of the exports from Zeebrugge go to the UK. This might be a tiny voice in the ocean of diplomatic and political wrangling, but it’s an important one and it speaks to the reality that, sooner or later, the top negotiators are going to have to deal with. The European Commission is testing the patience of EU businesses as much as it’s testing May’s.
It’s that time of year again as the City A.M. Awards are upon us. You may have noticed we’ve been running the shortlists in the paper throughout this week, and will do so again next week culminating in the most prestigious categories of Business of the Year and Personality of the Year. Of course, to the winners, all the categories are prestigious. That’s what I love about these awards: they mean so much to the winners. I can think of one former victor who still includes the honour in his email signature, despite having claimed it three years ago. I haven’t the heart to ask him to remove it. As ever, our judging panel is stellar and includes the likes of Sir Martin Sorrell, Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia and our star columnist Mark Kleinman. Bringing this gang together for the judging breakfast is always fun, and fierce debate is a given. The secret to the Awards night itself is that it’s basically a tremendous party with a short ceremony tacked on the end...
If you thought festival season was over, think again. Today marks the start of the Big Tent Ideas Fest, focused on Tory policy renewal. While it may not compete with Wilderness for ticket sales, it is generating a bit of buzz in its own small way. It’s the brainchild of Tory MP George Freeman, an impressive and thoughtful entrepreneur-turned-politician, committed to reinvigorating the intellectual soul of his party. The programme of events includes “live broadcast of Theresa May’s Florence speech” – which beats Corbyn at Glastonbury.
Since taking over the Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan has been busy. Top of her list has been pressuring the FCA to publish in full its report into the activity of RBS’ controversial Global Restructuring Group which many small and mid-sized firms blame for their collapse. I hear that Labour, sensing an opportunity, is considering going one further than Morgan and calling for a public inquiry. This would present May with a headache: would she support it?