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Theresa May on business: what do we know?

As Theresa May prepares to enter Number 10 tomorrow as the UK’s new prime minister, her policies remain relatively unknown. During a campaign speech in Birmingham yesterday (July 11), she outlined some of her preliminary plans for the business world, focusing on themes of responsibility, accountability and equality.

theresa may

Due to a shorter-than-expected leadership campaign and May’s lack of involvement in economic or business policy in her role as home secretary, most of what we know about May’s plans for the business world stem from this speech.

May’s campaign rhetoric has been dominated by ideas of social reform and, from what she said yesterday, it looks like a mandate she’s adamant to apply to the business world, too. She called for “an economy that works for everyone”, and said there was a need for a radical upheaval in the way business functions. “It is not anti-business to suggest that big business needs to change,” she insisted.

May intends to pioneer a new form of Conservatism, with some of her policies - curbing executive pay and board representation for workers - surprisingly similar to those put forward by the then Labour leader Ed Miliband at the last general election.

Here is what we’ve gathered about the new prime minister’s stance on Brexit and business.

1. “Brexit means Brexit”

Despite campaigning to remain in the European Union, May has vowed to stay true to the outcome of the vote and oversee a Brexit. “There are business leaders whose response has not been to plan for Britain’s departure or to think of the opportunities withdrawal presents – but to complain about the result and criticise the electorate. Well, I couldn’t be clearer. Brexit means Brexit. And we’re going to make a success of it.”

2. Bonus and pay transparency

In line with her insistence that businesses must work for everyone, May stated her intention to make company pay far more transparent, in an effort to tackle what she called an “irrational, unhealthy and growing gap between what companies pay their workers and what they pay their bosses”. She stated her desire to see “full disclosure of bonus targets”, as well as “the publication of ’pay multiple’ data: that is, the ratio between the CEO’s pay and the average company worker’s pay”. Alongside her aims for more transparent business pay networks, May also wants to make shareholder votes on corporate pay legally binding.

3. Employee representatives on company boards

“We’re not just going to have consumers represented on company boards, but employees as well,” said May, to unease from the business world. Josh Hardie, deputy director of the Confederation of British Industry, told The Guardian: “To ensure the most effective proposals are considered, it’s important that issues – such as putting employees on boards, whether they would need to sit on the full board, and how they would use their voting rights – are discussed between the government and business.”

4. More powers for the government to block predator takeovers

While social reform was the focus of much of May’s campaign for the leadership, in her speech yesterday she stressed the need for economic reform. As part of this, she spoke of creating a “proper industrial strategy” that would allow the blocking of so-called predator takeover bids – such as the Cadbury’s Kraft takeover.

5. Getting tough on “irresponsible behaviour”.

Theresa May was a tough home secretary, and it looks likely she will take a similar approach to business. She promised to crack down on “irresponsible behaviour in big business”, in particular corporation tax avoidance.

 

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