The “Maybot” was given a fresh new outing today as British Tory Prime Minister Theresa May danced her way onstage to deliver the annual speech at the Conservative Party conference. But did the international trade and finance community or those of us with personal finance interests abroad learn anything new about the party’s plans for Brexit and foreign policies?
If nothing else is going for you, try humour? That would be unfair to Theresa May. Although at times she has seemed inflexible on Brexit, the event she will forever be associated with, May put together a semi-credible Brexit strategy in the Chequers Plan, only to see it ripped to shreds, not only by most of Europe’s most powerful alpha male and female politicians, but even by her own party.
Did someone say party? May was certainly in the mood for dancing as she pranced onstage to the accompanying strains of “Dancing Queen”, but she had a serious message to deliver. Let’s have a quick look at May’s messages and see if we can decipher a future trade policy or a bonus for those of us who deal in overseas assets.
The defining issue, and May is no mood for a second referendum, referring to the prospect as a “politician’s vote”, and saying that “we already had a people’s vote”. She is prepared to walk away with no deal, and face tariffs on goods and a harsh trading environment, because ultimately, she feels, it would be worth the short term pain. She does not want to follow the Norway or Canada model, but does want to stay on good terms with the EU. Workers from Europe will be permitted to reside in the UK if they have the skills “we need”, which will encourage firms to train more local people.
Verdict: more Strictly Come Dancing than Eurovision song contest.
May is standing up to Europe and believes that, with the Chequers plan, she delivered a reasonable proposal. But it does not seem to have worked, and there is dissent on all sides. Businesses should therefore prepare for the worst, with complex negotiations and plenty of red tape, but also the opportunity to create bespoke deals that may turn out to be an improvement. Brexit could be a gift to those with entrepreneurial instincts, but a burden on those who prefer hard and fast trading laws.
Open for business?
May is keen to promote British business interests, especially when it comes to attracting business to Britain. Britain is open for business, she says, and paraphrasing her rival Boris Johnson’s “f*ck business!” declaration, she demanded that the Tories “Back Business!”
May says she wants Britain to be a “champion for free trade across the world”, praising the reserves of talent across the UK.
Verdict: Royal Rumba!
Again, the ramifications of leaving the EU are likely to play into the hands of entrepreneurial types. There will be plenty of opportunity to pitch to a global market, who will be willing to listen, given that everyone knows that Britain will have to scramble to make deals.
British products are also perceived to be good quality on the world stage. Those dealing with Europe will have to redouble their efforts and rely on the strength of their network, whilst being open-minded about looking at other sources of international income. Trading on traditional British strengths, such as invoking the Royal Family and Britains traditional strengths in engineering and finance, may be the way forward.
End of Austerity?
Finally, the Tories are seeing the light, it seems. Nobody likes austerity, and it’s time to try something new. The logic of telling the general public the cupboard is bare and they will have to scrimp and save is failing at last, in a post George Osborne world.
Lets battle our way out of a depressed economy by redoubling our efforts and keeping it in-house, May says. We’re all in it together, so let’s all get out of it together. There are echoes of Trump’s MAGA here, perhaps. Jobs are plentiful in the UK’s current economic climate, but wage growth is slow, and families and individuals are still wary of spending and keen to save, despite historically low interest rates, and historically high inflation. A little more ambition and, that word again, entrepreneurial endeavour, and we will all be ok, is the, possibly fiscally irresponsible message.
May has made much of her trip to Kenya, the first by a British Prime Minister since Thatcher. Let’s try new things, seems to be her message. We have been towing the party line and following EU rule for 30+ years, and now we can begin to look at new markets with impunity.
Verdict? – Rockin all over the world!
Let’s not feel sad about leaving the EU, let’s embrace a new opportunity, May says, toe tapping along to the fresh new beat. In reality this may be easier said than done, particularly as the world has been monitoring the state of Brexit negotiations for some time, and will drive a correspondingly hard bargain.
May’s occasionally flippant attitude seems to be “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, but will it work in a global economy that is clued up like never before and will use free-market capitalism like a hammer to hit us over the head with. They’ll hammer us in the morning, and the evening, but will they hammer out love between international brother and sister countries in desperate need of a favourable trade deal? It’s highly questionable.
May’s speech has gone down better than expected, and she deserves praise for sticking to a Brexit plan that did not go well at first reading. Now she is telling the EU, “if you don’t like it, you must make a counter-proposal”.
If they do not, it’s possible that things could rapidly unfold for Brits doing business overseas – oh, and May has also tightened up tax rules relating to non-doms and overseas tax payers.
By the time the speech comes around next year, depending on the next few months, it could be delivered by a new boss – or Bossa Nova, as it were!
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