General Election: Parties focus on business with tax cuts and apprenticeships

18 November 2019, 05:15

The Tories, Labour and Lib Dems will lay out their plans for business today
The Tories, Labour and Lib Dems will lay out their plans for business today. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson will pledge to end Brexit "uncertainty and confusion" on Monday when he tells business leaders he plans to cut business rates.

The leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems will all address the CBI conference on Monday, laying out their plans for business.

The Prime Minister is expected to tell the body he understands big business doesn't want to see the UK's exit from the EU, he will tell the CBI: "Let's not beat around the bush, big business didn't want Brexit."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, will also address the conference to announce reforms to the apprenticeship levy, promising to create a climate apprenticeship programme to "deliver 320,000 apprenticeships in England during its first term in government."

While Jo Swinson will use her speech to launch an attack on her rivals plans for a post-Brexit world.

Boris Johnson wants to "get Brexit done"
Boris Johnson wants to "get Brexit done". Picture: PA

However, Mr Johnson will promise business leaders "certainty" as the unveils a raft of new measures designed to help companies "make the most of Brexit."

Cutting business rates is a top priority for a Conservative majority Government, promising to launch a "fundamental review" at the first budget.

Mr Johnson will also vow to increase the employment allowance from £3,000 to £4,000, providing a tax cut of up to £1,000 for more than half a million businesses.

The R&D tax credit rate will increase from 12% to 13%, which the Conservatives say will boost manufacturing and the professional, scientific and technical services sectors in particular.

They have also promised to increase the structures and buildings allowance (SBA) from 2% to 3% to increase the tax relief on the purchase, building or leasing of a structure.

Addressing business leaders at a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, Mr Johnson is expected to say: "Let's not beat around the bush, big business didn't want Brexit.

"You made that clear in 2016 and this body said it louder than any other.

"But what is also clear is that what you want now - and have wanted for some time - is certainty.

"So that you can plan and invest, so you can grow and expand so that you can create jobs and drive prosperity."

He is expected to add: "Whilst you didn't want it, the people did vote for it. And so it was for politicians to deliver it.

"It has been politicians in a broken Parliament - not you - that have failed in this and in some cases actively tried to sabotage the democratic will of the people.

"This is why we had to have this election. Our hung and broken parliament was set on prolonging this delay.

"Britain stuck in gridlock and our economy stuck in first gear. Extension to extension. Marching business up to the top of the hill, only to march them down again.

"And this is Corbyn's plan at this election - the chaos and division of two more referendums, continued paralysis, continued uncertainty."

Mr Johnson will tell delegates getting Brexit over the line will allow businesses to get back to doing what they do best.

"With a Conservative majority Government you can be sure we will get Brexit done and leave with the new deal that is already agreed - ending the uncertainty and confusion that has paralysed our economy," he is expected to say.

"We can then focus on the people's priorities - investing in the NHS, cutting crime and making sure our children get a world class education.

"And you can focus on what you do best - spurring innovation, creating jobs, stimulating growth."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised a second referendum on Brexit
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised a second referendum on Brexit. Picture: PA

Ahead of the conference, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, raised concerns about Conservative plans for a tougher immigration regime after Brexit.

Speaking to Sky News she said: “When we hear talk about brightest and best, I think that is a worry. If you do want to build 200,000 houses a year, you don’t just need the architects and the designers, you need the carpenters, you need the electricians, you need the labourers. We need people to come and help us renew our economy.”

She added: “It’s not just brightest and best, it’s people at all skill levels across our economy that we need."

She also criticised Labour’s plans for the nationalisation of certain key infrastructure industries. She said Labour's plans for utilities, broadband, the postal service and railways could scare other business.

She said: “We look at the policies on the table and we have real concerns that they are going to crack the foundations of our economy. I have talked to businesses who are already sitting there thinking ‘maybe we’re next’.

“So we do say again to Labour, work with business, work out different answers to these problems. But this programme that is appearing to value none of the contribution that business makes will simply shut investment out of our country.”

In his speech on Monday, Mr Corbyn is expected to announce his party's plans to introduce reforms to the apprenticeship system to" better meet the needs of workers and employers and tackle the climate emergency. "

Mr Corbyn is expected to say: “Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution will be a central motor of the party’s plans to transform our country and economy, using public investment to create good, clean jobs, tackle the climate emergency and rebuild held back towns, cities and communities.

“Climate Apprenticeships will offer training to school leavers and workers looking to change jobs mid-career, creating the engineers, technicians and construction workers we need to transition to a green economy.

“This election is our last chance to tackle the climate emergency. The Tories have failed to invest in our economy, failed to deliver apprenticeships and failed to face up to the climate emergency.

“Labour will deliver real change.”

Jo Swinson has promised to cancel Article 50 and "stop Brexit"
Jo Swinson has promised to cancel Article 50 and "stop Brexit". Picture: PA

In a busy day for business leaders Jo Swinson will also address the conference and use her speech as an opportunity to hit out at the Tory and Labour leader.

Mrs Swinson is expected to say: "The Liberal Democrats are the natural party of business.

"With the Conservatives in the pocket of Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn stuck in the 1970s, we are the only ones standing up for you.   

"Because we believe that any form of Brexit, whether it’s hard or soft, blue or red, will be bad for jobs, business, and our public services.

"We believe that being part of one of the most successful economic blocs in the world is the best guarantee we can have for the future success of our businesses and of our country.

"We believe that our best future is as members of the European Union."

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