From the top · 4 August 2016

Theresa May takes temperature of small business at Downing Street summit

Theresa May
Theresa May will encourage small busienss to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit

The prime minister will learn the post-Brexit views and interests of small business today, as industry figureheads and trade association representatives meet Theresa May at a summit at 10 Downing Street.

May has pledged to ask leading small business decision makers for their views on how best to negotiate in Britain’s interests when exiting the EU, while finding out how government can help small firms take advantage of opportunities posed by Brexit.

In particular, the government wants to know how it can continue to encourage small businesses to export.

Speaking ahead of the summit, the prime minister insisted that engaging smaller firms was about more than just “dry economics”, but about ensuring a productive and secure economy, and a skilled workforce as Brexit approaches.

May said in a statement: “I want to build an economy that works for all, and that means working with, and listening to, smaller firms. The priorities I have set, including an economy balanced across the UK and open to new opportunities, can only be achieved if we listen to these businesses.”

In attendance at the summit will be representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed (IPSE), the Institute of Family Business and the Local Enterprise Partnership Network, as well as individual small business owners.

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry laid out his organisation’s position going into talks, citing access to European markets and the continued ability to hire top staff as key priorities for its members.

Cherry confirmed in a statement that the FSB would ask the prime minister for “reassurance on key EU-funded schemes and a new approach to both regulation and de-regulation”.

The priorities of Britain’s 4.8m self-employed workers will also be heard. IPSE chief executive Chris Bryce told Business Advice he was encouraged by May’s recognition of Britain’s micro owners. “The prime minister has delivered an important signal by including representatives from the smallest businesses in today’s roundtable discussions,” he said.

The 10 Downing Street summit comes two days after May’s first Cabinet committee meeting on the economy and industrial strategy.

Armed with a mission statement that promises to create an “economy that works for everyone”, May’s plan includes reigniting industry and encouraging innovation to guarantee long-term productivity.

May went on to say: “I want small firms across all sectors of our economy to be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brexit, such as exporting to new destinations.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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