Stressing he is an optimist, Britain’s Finance Minister said on Monday he is “enthusiastic” about the upcoming economic change.
Philip Hammond highlighted a range of issues during his speech to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.
He backed the Chequers deal that would see the UK maintain the common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products, saying it was the right option.
He also had a dig at the EU leadership, specifically mentioning the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, for rejecting the Chequers plan.
“Mr. Tusk says it won’t work. But that’s what people said about the light bulb in 1878. Our job is to prove him wrong,” Hammond told the conference.
In case of a “no deal” development, the Chancellor promised to “keep enough fiscal firepower in locker” to support the UK economy.
21st Century Capitalism
In tune with some arguments by the opposition, voiced at the Labour party conference last week, Hammond admitted that Brits were frustrated with the state of economy.
“There are many people who feel that they are working for the system, but the system wasn’t working for them,” he said.
The 21st century capitalism would be different for the 19th century, as the need to adapt to future challenges is clear, the Chancellor argued.
“This mission is urgent. Because if we cannot make that case convincing, if we cannot demonstrate our commitment to make that evolution happen, if we look for a moment like the party of ‘no change’ then we should not be surprised that some will be tempted by the dangerous populism of our opponents,” Hammond told the audience.
The Tories will always be a party of business, the Chancellor stressed as he championed a series of measures to allow firms more flexibility in how the apprenticeship levy is spent.
On corporate taxation, Hammond said the best way to tax international companies was through international agreements. However, he added the UK would be prepared to go alone with a ‘digital services tax’ of its own for international companies, such as Facebook and Google, if no wider international agreement is reached.
Ultimately, the underlying message in Hammond’s statement was a call for unity in backing the Conservative leader Theresa May, an appeal for the Conservatives to find a convincing message for the 21st century capitalism and a warning to not underestimate the electoral threat posed by the opposition.
The Conservatives have suffered through Brexit turbulence, with hardcore Brexiteers challenging the “soft Brexit” plan by the government. The party disunity opened doors to public disenchantment and constant denunciation by the opposition, which has embraced the possibility of a snap general election.
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