In his closing speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, party leader Jeremy Corbyn outlined his vision for a modern industrial strategy that would drive economic growth and job creation in Britain. But what does Corbyn’s Labour vision mean for small business?
Throughout his two years as leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn has struggled to win the backing of British industry. This week’s annual conference established its vision for heavy nationalisation of utilities and attack lines on big business, but also featured commitments towards investment, infrastructure and trade that could well win over small business owners.
We’ve taken a look at how Corbyn’s keynote speech might be interpreted by the small business community, and whether the party has started to recognise the distinction between corporations and the millions of small firms driving the economy.
Perhaps the biggest shift in policy that emerged from Corbyn’s speech was his guarantee of “unimpeded” access to the single market. The position will be welcomed by business owners seeking clarity and assurances on how Britain’s trading relationship with the EU would look under a Labour government.
However, Corbyn remains committed to ending freedom of movement, something senior EU leaders believe is a necessary requirement to single market access.
Corbyn also pledged to secure the rights of existing EU citizens in Britain, offering security to employers dependent on migrant workers.
Representing an industry particularly dependent on EU workers, Ian Wright, director general of the Food & Drink Federation (FDF), said it was “welcome” to hear the party guarantee residency rights.
“They are a valued part of our workforce,” Wright said. “Our businesses need time to prepare and plan for a new UK-EU relationship, and a proper transition phase is vital so we can continue to give consumers the quality, choice and value they rightly expect.”
Corbyn claimed Labour’s policy created a “clear divide” with the Conservative Party, and referenced the “jobs-first” approach to Brexit heard at the general election in June.
Investment and infrastructure
Withdrawal from the EU would give Britain greater powers to launch a new industrial strategy based on high national investment, the Labour leader claimed.
Corbyn referred to the proposed National Investment Bank that would be used to “invest in the education and skills of the workforce” and improve Britain’s infrastructure, “from energy to digital”.
Commenting on Corbyn’s investment pledges, Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), suggested the party was beginning to make the right noises to earn the support of small business owners.
“We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to invest in technical and vocational skills, alongside transport and digital infrastructure. Improving skills and infrastructure will be fundamental to improving small business productivity in every corner of the UK,” he said.
However, Cherry urged that the Labour Party needed to go further in articulating its vision for a pro-business economy.
“Spokespeople and MPs should be debating new policy ideas as to how a future Labour government would reform a broken business tax system, boost trade and apprenticeships, back the genuinely self-employed and tackle the growing costs of doing business,” he added.
The corporation tax question has continued to create tension between Corbyn’s leadership and the business community.
During his speech, Corbyn again asked “the richest and largest corporations to start paying their fair share”. Every reference to corporation tax rises is directed towards “big business”, but where does this leave the average small business owner?
At the election, Labour promised to increase corporation tax from 19 per cent to 26 per cent. Since, struggled to reassure small business owners that they wouldn’t lose out from such a measure.
Keep reading to find out where Corbyn has failed to win the support of the small business community
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