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18/10/2016

R3 at Conservative Party Conference

The R3 Thinks post on last year’s Conservative Party Conference ended by noting that the 2016 conference in Birmingham could have a very different feel to that of the post-General Election victory party atmosphere that marked the party’s 2015 conference.

Indeed, in the intervening time, the UK voted to leave the European Union, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister, many of his close colleagues left the government and Theresa May became only the second woman Prime Minister in British history. As a result the conference was overshadowed by questions about Brexit but also served as a key opportunity for Theresa May to set out her stall as the new Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Given the huge changes of recent months, it was important for R3 to hear from the new government and also to speak to new Ministers to ensure that the UK’s world class insolvency regime receives the recognition it deserves. In that regard it was great for our CEO, Graham Rumney, to have a brief chat with new insolvency minister Margot James about the work and role of the profession.

The main set-piece highlights for R3 were the speeches from Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Phillip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Despite much of the conference focussing on Brexit, Clark’s speech was notable for its lack of any reference to Brexit and Hammond’s speech contained little in terms of policy, with more details about the government’s economic policy to be provided at the Autumn Statement next month.

The Brexit focus extended throughout the conference, with a large number of fringe events looking at the impact of Brexit on a variety of industries and social groups. The message from the government benches was clear at all events, that businesses and individuals alike need to look for the opportunities of Brexit or otherwise a difficult exit from the EU.

Other fringe events mainly focussed on housing and health with seemingly few other policy areas covered. The exhibition hall looked a little ‘thin’ compared to previous years and it was mainly occupied by charities rather than corporates.

Theresa May’s speech at the end of the conference sought to emphasise a number of key points about Brexit, namely; that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and any attempt to undermine efforts to leave the EU will not be tolerated; the government will not be providing a running commentary on the negotiations; and ending the jurisdiction of EU law and free movement from Europe are key priorities for her government.

But the Prime Minister also sought to define her philosophy and her vision for Britain – moving the Conservative Party to the centre ground of British politics in the process. Ms May also had a tough message for ‘badly behaving’ bosses and businesses, saying that she is putting ‘on warning’ those who don’t look after their staff or who treat tax laws as optional extras – a marked contrast with her predecessor.

Theresa May and her government will now spend the coming months negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU and the terms of our future relationship with the organisation. Achieving this will no doubt be fraught with political difficulty and it will be a challenge for the Prime Minister to ensure that her programme for government is not defined solely by Brexit. Once again, a year is a long time in politics and the next Conservative conference could have yet another very different feel given the huge challenges ahead for the government.

 

Notes to editors:

  • R3 is the trade body for Insolvency Professionals and represents the UK’s Insolvency Practitioners.

  • R3 comments on a wide variety of personal and corporate insolvency issues. Contact the press office, or see www.r3.org.uk for further information.

  • R3 promotes best practice for professionals working with financially troubled individuals and businesses; all R3 members are regulated by recognised professional bodies
     
  • R3 stands for 'Rescue, Recovery, and Renewal' and is also known as the Association of Business Recovery Professionals.