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This Week in Brexit: Politics 15th July

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

This Week in Brexit: Politics

What a difference a week makes. Just 7 days ago we were settling in for a summer of Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May battling it out amongst the grass roots over the Conservative Party leadership. However, as we’re increasingly realising, our post-referendum world is nothing if not unpredictable…

Conservative Party Leadership

We have a new Prime Minister.

On Monday, Andrea Leadsom surprised pundits by pulling out of the Conservative Party leadership race after a weekend of sustained backlash following a row over her CV and “that” interview with The Times.

Theresa May, fresh from launching her leadership bid with a speech right here in Birmingham, was left as the only candidate in the running. By the end of that very same day the 1922 Committee (an influential group of back-bench Conservative MPs who have overseen the leadership selection process) had declared Teresa May the new Conservative Party leader “with immediate effect” and Prime Minister from Wednesday. Read our response here.

A chirpy David Cameron, hummed his way out of office, issuing a gracious farewell on Wednesday.

Theresa May wasted no time in getting down to business and, by close of play Thursday, had unveiled the top team that will be steering the good ship UK through Brexit in the coming months.

The Cabinet

We have a new Cabinet, including some brand new roles.

On Wednesday Theresa May announced the first tranche of new Cabinet members: Philip Hammond as Chancellor of the Exchequer (replacing George Osborne) and Amber Rudd as Home Secretary. Boris Johnson’s appointment as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs caused a stir in the international media (click here).

Thursday’s appointments saw the creation of two new roles: Secretary of State for International Trade (Liam Fox) and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU (David Davis) and a carve up of what was known as the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.

Instead we now have a Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Greg Clark). Responsibility for Universities, FE and Apprenticeships has returned to the Department for Education (now headed up by Justine Greening)  while some Department for Energy and Climate Change responsibilities will be absorbed by Clark’s new department.

Speaking of Greg Clark; mere hours after his appointment, the man himself was up in Birmingham yesterday evening addressing the University of Birmingham’s Chancellor’s Dinner, lauding the huge role the city plays in business, science, industry & civic leadership.

In another twist, May appointed her erstwhile leadership rival, Andrea Leadsom, to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Among the big names exiting Cabinet were George Osbourne and Michael Gove. Click here for a full list of who’s in and who’s out.

From our perspective, it is reassuring to have confirmation of who our leaders are during this distinctly uncertain and changeable time. But we’re also acutely aware that this represents a lot of change: new people, new remits, new structures in Government.

Our new top dogs are going to have to get to grips with this in record speed if they are going to also be able to put on a compelling, coherent show in the looming Brexit negotiations. You can read our full response here

Labour Leadership

The Labour Party leadership woes continue. Angela Eagle, somewhat overshadowed by events in the Conservative Party Leadership race, officially launched her leadership bid on Monday. Owen Smith has also confirmed his intention to join the contest.

The Labour National Executive Committee caused consternation this week: it decided to allow Jeremy Corbyn to be automatically entered onto the leadership ballot, without needing to gain the support of MPs and MEPs.  They also made changes to the rules on who can vote on the ballot which have angered a number of Corbyn supporters. For more information click here and here. From the sounds of it, it’s all getting a bit nasty with reports of vandalism and a growing number of threats of violence.

It seems as though it will be sometime yet before this particular issue is resolved, but, if the last few weeks are anything to go by, little is as it seems in the post-referendum political sphere.

This Week at the Chambers

It’s been another busy week at the Chambers. On Tuesday we launched the latest version of our flagship Quarterly Business Report (Q2 2016). Our event examined investment in Greater Birmingham in light of the “Brexit” vote. Our expert guest speakers (Matthew Hammond, Regional Chairman of PwC, Nigel Hinshelwood, Deputy CEO of HSBC and Head of HSBC UK and Professor Simon Collinson, Dean of Birmingham Business School) gave their take on the city but we also spent a significant portion of the event discussing and feeding back on delegates’ views of how Brexit has affected their business. You can read our report here and the first of two articles on the speeches here. Keep your eyes peeled for the second and a blog post from my colleague Stephanie Wall, Senior Policy and Patron Advisor, on the discussion coming soon.

We are in the midst of surveying members, alongside the British Chambers of Commerce, on the immediate impact of the EU Referendum result (Click Here to take part). We also have newly updated content on our EU Referendum hub (Click Here) including links to free resources from our Chamber Patrons.

As ever, if the EU Referendum result has affected your business, we would really value hearing about your experience. Contact me on H.Brealey@Birmingham-Chamber.com