Earlier this year I heard about a new Twitter initiative, known as the #My100Days challenge. The campaign encouraged everyone to think about what they could accomplish over the course of 100 days.
Commitments ranged from spending more time with family and friends to getting involved in volunteering projects.
With just a centenary of days left to go until the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, it feels like our beleaguered Prime Minister is facing the mother of all #My100Days challenges.
This is especially true if you consider the current views of British business.
With Brexit round the corner, we recently polled more than 350 business leaders from around the UK. 85% think the government is not prioritising the needs of businesses enough in its negotiations.
And perhaps more worryingly, after two years of fraught negotiations, multiple resignations and economic uncertainty, over half (55%) of the business leaders questioned feel less optimistic about leaving the EU now than they did at the time of the referendum result.
The majority of businesses we surveyed are part of what we call the UK economic engine. They are the UK’s mid-sized entrepreneurial businesses, which we believe are overlooked and undervalued by the government.
The UK economic engine accounts for only 0.5% of all UK businesses (29,000) yet generates over one third of UK revenue (£1.3tn) and almost 1 in 3 private sector jobs. So why is the government not placing more emphasis on scaling up this part of the economy? And what can be done as we approach the major milestone of leaving the EU?
Let’s turn back to Theresa May’s 100 day challenge. We can all agree that she has her hands full battling her Eurosceptic backbenchers, trying to build consensus across Parliament and seeking wriggle room – where it exists – with the EU 27.
However, there is a missing piece of the jigsaw that must be found. Working with her Chancellor, we would like to see the Prime Minister do more to ensure that the UK is ready domestically to absorb the shocks that any flavour of Brexit will bring.
A ‘new economy’ is required which makes it easier to do business whilst still ensuring that public services get the funding they need and that the UK can attract the skilled people we require.
The following five broad policy themes are needed.
Firstly, we would like to see tax simplified by, for example, aligning National Insurance and income tax.
Secondly, we would like to see investment in smaller infrastructure projects, which generate a quick return to the economy.
We want to see a concerted effort to attract skilled people to the UK. One simple step would be to reinstate the two-year post-study work visa for postgraduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.
To tackle the UK productivity malaise, we’d like to see the Government further increase the annual investment allowance for expenditure on plant and machinery, to £5 million for five years.
And finally, whilst the Government has taken many steps to address the need for patient capital we would like it to consider how to increase pension scheme investment. Given the long-term nature of pension investment there is an obvious fit between the needs of growth businesses seeking patient capital and the longer-term investment horizons of pension funds.
With just 100 days to go until we officially leave the EU, the Prime Minister is facing battles on multiple fronts. She and her Chancellor have no option but to plan for domestic policies that will help the UK insulate itself from a dramatic Brexit.
Jo Gilbey is a Tax Partner at BDO.