It was an honour, and good fun to participate on BBC Question Time recently. I watch the programme regularly and we are living through a truly momentous period in our political and economic history, so I was keen to contribute to the national debate during this time.
On Brexit, I do not think there is any point looking back. The decision has been made and right now, we have to do our best to make it work.
But after the recent rows between EU and British politicians, I think that everybody needs to calm down.
Arguing about who said what, to whom or bickering about whether the EU needs us more than we need them or vice versa, isn’t going to get us anywhere. The truth is we both need each other after Brexit and we will both be stronger if we can find a sensible way to trade and work together in the future. I would like to hear much more about the vision and ambition of Britain post Brexit; in which areas we will continue to collaborate with the EU and how we intend to make more of other global relationships, and I don’t mean soundbites, but long term strategic economic options.
On the other hand, I don’t think that the UK should just roll over to the EU on our future relationship – from my own experience in business I know that sometimes you do have to be ‘bloody difficult’ and hold your ground in negotiations, but you also need to think of the bigger picture, and that means understanding where the other side is coming from and making compromises. That in my experience is the more difficult and important part in any negotiation, than being ‘bloody difficult.’
The big issue facing our economy, is that it hasn’t supported a growth in living standards since the economic crash in 2008. It is therefore no surprise that many people are struggling to cope and we do not have enough money to invest in public services. Also the world of work has changed; a career for life is far less common these days and a new industrial revolution is taking place, which means that because of technology there simply will not be the need for some types of jobs in the future.
I believe that the only way that we will adapt to this and prosper as a country is if we take a new approach to our economy. We need to invest much more in skills and infrastructure and we finally need that plan – an industrial strategy – to make Britain the best place in the world for creating and adopting new technologies and businesses, especially digital ones. This will begin to re-balance our economy towards more high value and knowledge rich new industries, like additive manufacturing , or artificial intelligence.
If we can get this right, then instead of worrying whether our jobs are going to be replaced by robots, we can make sure that our young people are training to be the designers, software developers or engineers that will drive these new industries. In other words that we have a clear strategy that makes sure through these new digital technologies we create more opportunities and jobs that we end up displacing through their introduction.
Brexit makes all this even more important, as I am very clear, and there is no point pretending differently, there will be some new costs to trading and business after Brexit, and that means even more so that only high technology and high innovation industries will be the ones that can thrive and create prosperity here. So, we need a cross party approach to supporting this much more strategic approach to industry and give our economy the best chance to prosper, create many more well paid jobs and export more to the world
I also attach a short video which builds on another one of my points on Question Time, that we need to stop seeing business as the bad guys. There is a very important society aspect of business, and regarding the Brexit negotiations, it is certainly not all about money and trade deals – as important as they are. You can watch it here.