Belfast Telegraph

PM: Brexit is opportunity to make globalisation work for all

Theresa May has denied she is anti-business and urged companies to work with the Government to help those "left behind" by globalisation regain their faith in capitalism.

The Prime Minister said the post-war liberal consensus has "failed to maintain the consent of many people" and told those who cannot see the breakdown in trust that they are the "enemy" of liberalism.

She urged firms to cooperate with the Government to ensure they "do business in the right way", because a minority have "gamed the system" and undermined the reputation of business as a whole.

Those who have championed globalisation have, in their "zeal and enthusiasm", overlooked the impact on those who have seen their jobs outsourced and wages undercut, and who have seen their communities changed by immigration but "don't remember agreeing to that change".

But now as the UK gets ready for Brexit and Donald Trump prepares to be inaugurated as United States president, "a change is in the air", she said.

In a speech to City leaders at Guildhall, s he called on Britain to react by continuing to be a "pioneer" and an "outrider", and to rebuild trust in global free markets by ensuring they deliver prosperity for everyone.

"If we believe, as I do, that liberalism and globalisation continue to offer the best future for our world, we must deal with the downsides and show that we can make these twin forces work for everyone," the PM said.

"Because when you refuse to accept that globalisation in its current form has left too many people behind, you're not sowing the seeds for its growth but for its ruin.

"When you fail to see that the liberal consensus that has held sway for decades has failed to maintain the consent of many people, you're not the champion of liberalism but the enemy of it.

"When you dismiss the very real and deeply felt concerns of ordinary people, whether here at home or abroad, you are not acting to defend your world view but to undermine it."

Mrs May insisted businesses have a crucial role in restoring public faith in free markets and in helping those who have not gained from globalisation.

"I know many of you in this room recognise this responsibility, but others have voiced their suspicion of what they see as a growing anti-business agenda," she said.

"I don't agree. It is because I believe so passionately in business that I say this. Asking business to work with Government to play its part is profoundly pro-business, because it is fundamental to retaining faith in capitalism and free markets."

The Prime Minister said she sees Brexit as an opportunity to "manage the forces of globalisation so that they work for all" and to show that "Britain can lead" in facing the "greatest challenges of our time".

In her speech, Mrs May also signalled her intention to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

The PM said Britain can use its economic strength to do "new business with old allies" in a sign that she views the election of Mr Trump as an opportunity.

As Downing Street was forced to insist that Nigel Farage will not be a "third person" in the UK's relationship with the US president-elect, Mrs May said she would use the freedoms granted by Brexit to "set our own rules" and forge new trading arrangements.

Mrs May said: "As we leave the European Union, we will... use the strength and size of our economy to lead the way in getting out into the world and doing new business with old allies and new partners alike.

"We will use the freedoms that come from negotiating with partners directly, to be flexible, to set our own rules and forge new and dynamic trading agreements that work for the whole UK."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of playing catch-up and, in an echo of Mr Trump, claimed the Tories would not dismantle the "rigged system" which serves "billionaires".

Mr Corbyn said: "Theresa May is trying to catch up with a changing world the Conservatives do not understand.

"There can't be a globalisation that works for all without taking on the billionaires' club that controls this rigged system.

"The Conservatives have presided over ballooning inequality. They've given tax cuts to the richest 1% while the incomes of 70% have stagnated or fallen.

"Labour will take on the interests holding our country back. We will invest to rebuild and transform Britain, so no-one and no community is left behind."

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn welcomed Mrs May's "robust case for free trade" and said businesses were looking forward to working with her on an industrial strategy.

On responsible business, she added: "Companies are committed to improving employee engagement.

"There is no blanket solution, but a starting point is firms being able to outline what approach they are taking - whether that's employees on boards, employee committees, dedicated representatives, or another model.

"Investors should rightly hold companies to account over exceptional pay for poor performance.

"Introducing a targeted binding vote regime would focus attention on the most concerning cases giving shareholders the teeth to truly have the final say on top executives' pay."