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Brexit: Where the Tory leadership candidates stand on business

From VAT to the single market and immigration, each candidate lined up to replace David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party has vastly differing views of how best to negotiate the months ahead. Here, we summarise some of the key business-related promises from those running for the top job.

Theresa may

Theresa May

Theresa May


Theresa May – home secretary – REMAIN

Much of Theresa May’s pitch for the leadership of the Conservative party revolves around building a strong economy and focusing on maintaining trade links with the EU. As she launched her bid for leadership, she reiterated the statement that Britain is “open for business”.

In the midst of the post-Brexit turmoil, she has spoken in favour of maintaining strong trading links with EU member states and the single market, calling the sustained ability of British companies to trade with the single market a “priority” and saying trade links with the EU are “vital to our prosperity”.

May also ruled out tax rises before 2020 – saying: “If before 2020 there is a choice between further spending cuts, more borrowing and tax rises, the priority must be to avoid tax increases since they would disrupt consumption, employment and investment”

Despite stressing the importance of trade, May has also set herself firmly against the continuation of free movement into the UK. She said: “There is clearly no mandate for a deal that involves accepting the free movement of people.” She has so far remained vague on what would happen to EU workers in the UK, post-Brexit. When asked whether people from the EU would not be welcome in the UK, she responded that “it will be part of the negotiation”.


Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Michael Gove

Michael Gove – justice secretary – LEAVE

Gove’s decision to stand in the leadership race came as a surprise to many. Throughout the Brexit campaign he has been adamant that the UK should leave the single market and focus on building trade links elsewhere, primarily in order to curb immigration from the EU. He advocated an “Australian style points based system for immigration” which judges potential migrants on their personal attributes and how much they could contribute to society, as well as their occupational status.

As well as leaving the single market and ending free movement, Gove also promised to cut VAT on domestic fuel and said the UK should “set an example as the most creative, innovative and progressive country in the world.”


Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb

Stephen Crabb


Stephen Crabb – work and pensions secretary – REMAIN

As a relatively unknown MP, having been thrust into the limelight when he replaced Iain Duncan Smith as work and pensions secretary earlier this year, Crabb joined forces with business secretary Sajid Javid for his leadership campaign, and both have stressed the importance of remaining in the single market. Announcing his bid for the Conservative leadership in June 29, Crabb said: “It is vital that we seek to achieve as close an economic relationship with the EU as we have now.” However, he too stressed that immigration must be curbed, calling freedom of movement a “red line”.

 Andrea Leadsom – energy minister – LEAVE

Before Leadsom was elected as an MP, she worked in the finance sector for a number of years. She’s been widely praised for her understanding and experience of economic issues. One of her early backers, Julian Brazier MP, said: “She has a remarkable grasp of the economy with a wealth of experience from the City”. She’s said in the past that immigration could “overwhelm” the UK.


Liam Fox – defence secretary – LEAVE

While most of the leadership candidates speak of the importance of maintaining strong trading relations with the EU, Fox is unusual in prioritising trade with different markets, capitalising on the “special relationship” with the US as a key move and is adamant that freedom of movement makes membership of the single market an impossibility for the UK. In his statement announcing his candidacy, he said: “We do not need to be part of the single market to sell into it; countries like the United States managed to do that very well. It is in our mutual interests to have a free and open trade relationship with our European partners but we cannot accept the concept of free movement of people as its cost.”




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