Five key areas to rebuild momentum in the economy
By Richard Branson @richardbranson
29 July 2016
This article was orginal featured on Virgin.
Initially, I would ask Government to focus on five key areas to rebuild momentum in the economy and provide a stronger platform for the entrepreneurs and smaller businesses that are the lifeblood of any thriving country.
First, it is crucial to frame what our possible trading relations with the EU could look like. It is vitally important that UK business has some idea of how it will be able to trade with its closest trading partners and not slip back to the time before the 1970s when the UK was restricted by high tariffs and taxes. I started Virgin when we had to pay heavy import and export duties and it made it harder to expand.
Second, the UK needs to ensure the EU nationals working and living in the UK, and those UK citizens living in Europe, are able to carry on. There are roughly 3 million in the UK and many have helped create and build businesses. Losing such a talent pool would have a major impact on business prospects. Part of the UK’s great success over the last few decades has been the ability to attract talent from all over the world; it must not close its borders to this.
Third, the Government must continue to focus on major infrastructure projects that the UK desperately needs and were long part of the last Prime Minister’s manifesto. The country’s railway infrastructure is in need of upgrade and investment to cope with the growing passenger numbers and to connect the major cities in a reliable and fast way.
At Virgin we have long argued that the investment in High Speed Rail needs to be planned in conjunction with upgrades to the major classic lines. This should be on the list for the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (a former Transport Secretary).
Fourth, the UK needs to create more connectivity with the rest of the world to ensure we have the best opportunities for building new trading relationships. Our current airports in London are at full capacity and in desperate need of a new runway to compete with the nearest rivals in Europe and the growing connectivity of the Middle East airports. The decision to build a new runway at Heathrow has been delayed by successive Governments and I have strongly argued that a decision needs to be made soon, or the UK economy will be held back for decades to come.
Lastly, I would look to continue and build on the success of David Cameron’s Start-Up Loan scheme – which encouraged entrepreneurs to start new businesses with small Government-backed loans of up to £25,000. Last year the scheme helped more than 13,000 companies get off the ground and at Virgin we provided funding, mentorship and support to more than 1000 businesses in the last two and half years.
This scheme has helped a new wave of entrepreneurs kick start their companies and created a vibrant UK economy. Three years on, I would go further and argue that the Chancellor should look to fill the funding gap that many growing start ups need with follow up financing – helping the successful ones fund that first big order, open a new shop, or hire the next few employees. At times of economic uncertainty, this Government support would help to maintain the momentum.
The UK economy is at a crossroads but with the right targeted support from Government, it can recreate the conditions that allow businesses and entrepreneurs alike to take risks and grow their companies and recreate the momentum of the last five years. Across the UK we need entrepreneurial spirit – just as The New European is showing!
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