14 July 2022

The next PM must strive for an ‘enterprise-first’ Britain

By Brendan Chilton

Prime Ministers and governments come and go, but the central mission of every administration remains the same; increasing productivity to grow our economy and to raise the living standards for our people.

To do this we need the next Prime Minister, whoever he or she may be, to have a laser-like focus on enterprise and industry, and on making the UK the best country in the world to do business. The next Prime Minister’s fate will be largely determined by how well they deliver on that central mission to drive prosperity.

To achieve this aim the government needs to give its full attention to creating conditions for family-owned and family-run businesses to flourish. This means ensuring that our tax system is competitive and our regulatory framework is light. Businesses have faced enormous restrictions over the past three years due to the Covid restrictions and they now face tremendous inflationary challenges. Government does not create wealth, the private sector does. We need the Government to remove obstacles to investment and growth and allow businesses to let the dogs off the leash.

Starting with regulation. The Government needs to accelerate the removal of leftover EU regulations that act as a straitjacket on family run and family owned businesses. From the redundant Ergonomics Directive to the damaging Working Time Directive, a host of EU regulations are still in effect on family run businesses. Large corporations can easily absorb these regulations, but for family businesses and those firms looking to expand these constitute an enormous cost that could otherwise be spent on investment, training or creating new jobs. Brexit meant us having the ability to diverge from EU rules and to set conditions suitable for British businesses. Why has this not happened yet?

One of the easiest areas where productivity gains can be found is in light manufacturing. The Government has scrapped its Industrial Strategy to the cost of British manufacturing – even though all those countries around the world that have stable economies with higher than average growth rates have sizeable manufacturing sectors.

The Government needs a wholesale review into the reasons why we have declined as a manufacturing power. From planning conditions, to training and skills, capital allowances, exchange rate policies, and essential infrastructure, there is a huge agenda that we need to undertake to ensure we make more and export more, creating good, well-paid jobs and boosting growth.

The Independent Business Network has published a manifesto for whoever becomes the next Prime Minister. Perhaps the most important area that requires attention is the UK’s increasingly heavy tax burden. A high tax economy is a low growth economy. We cannot continue to disincentivise entrepreneurs, businesses and consumers through ever more taxes. Cutting taxes to put more money into the pockets of businesses and consumers isn’t ideological, it’s common sense.  How can businesses expand and employ more workers when Government is taking more money? Immediate cuts to Corporation Tax and National Insurance are needed, as well as a cut in income tax to provide the desperate stimulus the economy needs.

The UK is a great nation and is one of the largest economies in the world. But we do not hold that position by any God-given right and we cannot trade on our past glories. At the moment we are appearing complacent and tired. We are in a world where new economies and technologies are emerging at an unprecedented rate. No company or country will give us an advantage because of who we are or what we were. Outside the EU we are operating in a global competitive marketplace and we have to ensure that the British economy is the most attractive and dynamic in the world. The next Prime Minister needs to ensure that the conditions set today mean that in fifty to a hundred years, Britain is still a major economic power and force for good in a world that has become more dangerous and more challenging.

Click here to subscribe to our daily briefing – the best pieces from CapX and across the web.

CapX depends on the generosity of its readers. If you value what we do, please consider making a donation.

Brendan Chilton is CEO at the Independent Business Network.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.