Business owners were probably as surprised as everyone else when Theresa May called a general election three years ahead of schedule. With such a short timetable, there’s a relatively short window of opportunity for businesses to set out their “wish list” for what they would like from an incoming government. It is, however, possible to speculate what the general election may mean for businesses large and small and, of course, the self-employed.
The Right to Remain Question
This is arguably the pre-Brexit question in that it is a matter which the EU has stated must be settled before Brexit negotiations proper can proceed. In very simple terms, assuming the EU means what it says, giving permanent right to remain to EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for five years or more is a necessary condition for any further negotiations to take place. Given that this only impacts a relatively small number of people (albeit to a great degree), and would presumably be reciprocal (in that the EU would grant the same rights to UK nationals resident abroad), this is likely to be a fairly easy agreement to make and would give the people concerned (and their employers and employees) reassurance about their future.
The Brexit Question
There can be little doubt that the result of this election will have a significant impact on the course of Brexit. If pollsters are correct and Theresa May returns to power with an increased majority, then it could be a strong sign that Brexit could be as soft as the city would like. May herself was a Remainer, but up until now she has had to deal with the reality of a small majority and some hardline Brexit-supporting backbenchers. If local party branches are encouraged to field pro-European candidates and enough of them are elected, then Theresa May could find her hand substantially strengthened in navigating her way through the Brexit negotiations which are sure to define this parliament and her leadership.
The Currency Question
The Pound Sterling has been on something of a wild ride over recent times. While it’s a fact of life that some businesses benefit from a weak pound just as some businesses benefit from a strong pound, pretty much all businesses benefit from at least a reasonable degree of stability so that they and their customers can plan ahead to a reasonable degree. If the general election achieves nothing more than to bring stability to the Pound, then it’s probably fair to assume that most businesses will could that as a positive, even if they would have preferred the Pound to be stronger or weaker.
The National Insurance Question
In all the sound bites and fury about Brexit, it’s easy to forget the NI debacle in which Philip Hammond’s (widely-anticipated) readjustment of the NI system to make it “fairer”, was swiftly reversed after a (presumably unanticipated) backlash. Unsurprisingly, questions about what was in store for NI in the next parliament were high on the agenda for political journalists. It was widely noticed that Theresa May failed to rule out raising NI if she were to win the election. In fairness, there’s a difference between refusing to rule out something and saying that you will do it, but it also has to be remembered that the stated reason why the increase was reversed was because it was against the spirit of the manifesto commitment, rather than because the government thought it was a bad idea in and of itself. May also refused to rule out raising income tax or capital gains tax. She did, however, commit to keeping the maximum VAT rate at 20%.