Jack Simpson reviews the main policies of the two leadership candidates hoping to become Prime Minister next week.
A week today, the Conservative part will announce the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It has been a long drawn out process, but it has come down to either Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson. This page will look at the ideas and policies the two candidates hold on the biggest issues facing the country.
Mr. Hunt, 52, is the current Secretary of State of the Foreign Office and MP for West Surrey. He is the former Secretary of State for Health, Culture and Olympics and recieved the backing of 77 MPs in the ballot process.
Hunt has claimed that he will renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union over August and September and has said that the Irish Backstop (arguably the most contentious part of Withdrawal) must “change or go” something the EU has been very reluctant to renegotiate.
If a deal is not in sight by September 30th he will, “with a heavy heart”, opt for a No Deal withdrawal.Hunt will look to propose a new Brexit budget in September, particularly in the event of No Deal, and has also promised a £6bn bailout fund for the agricultural sector.
No Deal would adversely affect the North East and continues not to be an option for the North East Chamber. We will campaign, regardless of the Prime Minister, against this outcome.
Migration & Skills
Wants to scrap the “Below 100,000” immigration target set by his former boss, Theresa May. He also wants to review the proposed £30k salary requirement for migrant workers and identify a flexible strategy of prioritising skilled workers.
He also wants to lower student debt interest rates as well as writing off student debt for entrepreneurs who start a business out of university and manage to employ ten staff.
Tax & Business Rates
A key challenge facing the region, and the nation, is the decline of the high street. In his bid to "give the British high street” new life, Mr. Hunt plans to scrap business rates for 24,500 businesses, 2,000 of which are in Newcastle. He also said he could cut corporation tax to as low as 12.5%, same as Ireland (costing £13bn a year).
Mr. Hunt would also like to see more powers given to local leaders, though the scope of this is has not been defined.
Mr. Hunt backs the development of the HS2 rail network, and the expansion of Heathrow to a third runway. He also backs the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail project being debated in the Treasury.
Mr. Johnson, 55, was the outright winner of the MP selection stage, receiving the backing of 160 MPs. He is the former Mayor of London and Secretary of the State of Foreign Office, and current MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Mr. Johnson has criticised the Government for missing the original Brexit date of March 29th and is determined for the UK to leave by October 31st, believing “delay would mean defeat (of the Conservative Party)”. It is core to the Chamber that we avoid a No Deal outcome, that could result in a 12-16% drop in regional GDP.
Mr. Johnson wants to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and replace the Backstop with alternative arrangements, unclear what these will be. Although he claims a No Deal is “a million to one”, he will support the agricultural community.
In the event of a No Deal, Johnson will withhold the £39bn repayment funds and ask the EU for a standstill arrangement on trade. This is optimistic because there isn’t £39bn waiting in an account for the EU, and the EU would struggle to agree a third-party standstill that could jeopardise other trade relations.
Migration & Skills
Prefers a “Point Style” migration system, which workers must hit a point threshold, determined by their age, employment, language, qualification etc, to enter the country. Mr. Johnson also opposes the 100,000 migration target and wants to prevent immediate access to benefits.
Has pledged to raise spending to £5k per student in secondary schools and review the strategy and spending for primary education.
Tax & Business Rates
Mr. Johnson gained significant attention when he announced his plan to raise the salary threshold for the highest rate of income tax from £50k to 80k. It is estimated this will cost the Government £9bn, and benefiting around 4 million tax payers.
He has also proposed “sprucing up the high street”, scrapping business rates on free to use cash machines and developing a £675m fund to beautify the areas. Johnson claims the £39bn EU divorce settlement can fund this.
Connectivity is key to the North East region in establishing trade links nationally and globally. While Mr. Johnson wants to review the HS2 project, he believes that the best way to close the gap between London and the outer regions was by increased transport and communication infrastructure, to better service regional business communities.
Mr. Johnson also backs the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, but wants to see more power, and accountability, given to the transport bosses tasked with delivering it.
The result is expected on Tuesday 22nd. Please get in contact with the Chamber policy team if you have any questions or want to have your input on the political issues or opportunities facing your business: https://www.neechamber.co.uk/policy/get-involved/meet-the-team