Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Statement this afternoon against a backdrop of mounting political turmoil over Brexit. Sandwiched in between two crucial Brexit votes, the Chancellor delivered what has been described as a “low key” statement – not one for tomorrow’s front pages.
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Unsurprisingly, the Chancellor used today’s Spring Statement to announce yet more consultations and reviews. But many of these will have a direct bearing on future spending and the shape of regulation in the UK, meaning businesses will need to engage.
In a move that will be welcomed by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Chancellor has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to look at the digital advertising market. There will also be a consultation on how to replace PFI contracts, a review on ending low wages and a global review into the economics of biodiversity – all of which will attract scrutiny from the business community.
Building on one of the few areas where this government has made significant inroads, the Spring Statement contained an unusually high proportion of announcements on sustainability. Increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid, designating 443,000 square kilometres of the UK’s waters as a Marine Protected Area and mandating net increases in biodiversity on new developments will be welcome news to many environmental campaigners.
Once again, however, there will be areas of concerns for energy companies operating in this space with a commitment to end fossil-fuel heating in all new houses from 2025.
The overall message from the Treasury today was that the UK is open for business. No matter how incongruous this may seem – coming on the back of some dire “no deal” warnings and the Prime Minister’s announcement of zero tariffs across large swathes of the economy – the Chancellor is clearly trying to manage economic instability. This was the rationale behind visa exemptions for PhD-level occupations, the abolition of landing cards from June 2019 and the rolling out of e-gates in UK airports for certain countries.
This will be seen as window dressing by many watching today but it is part of the Government’s wider efforts to attract international investors and send a signal across the globe that the UK is open for business.