Tory Party Conference: what marketers need to know

Theresa May

The Conservative Party conference, held in Birmingham, drew to a close tonight (3 October). The week saw prime minister Theresa May’s party discuss plans for Brexit, budgets, and more. Here’s what marketers need to know.

Brexit

May’s Brexit deal was the primary subject on the agenda. After sashaying on to stage to Abba's 'Dancing Queen', her closing speech - titled ‘Our Future Is In Our Hands’ - saw her reiterate vows to "honour" the results of the Brexit referendum and "seek a good trading and security relationship with our neighbours after we have left".

However, May stressed that her push to retain a good relationship with the EU "has never meant getting a deal at any cost.”

“Britain isn’t afraid to leave with no deal if we have to,” she said.

Her controversial Chequers plan has split the party, but she used her speech to state that it was the only viable option, and called for her fellow Tories to unite on it.

She admitted while Britain’s exit from the EU would be “bad at first" she added that the "resilience and ingenuity of the British people would see us through".

Immigration Policy

Out of the conference also came May’s radical post-Brexit migration plan.

When the UK ends EU free movement access after Brexit, May’s proposals would see EU citizens no longer given priority to live and work in Britain. Instead, highly skilled workers, regardless of country, wanting to live and work in Britain would be given priority, while low-skilled immigration would be curbed.

Meanwhile Britons could have to apply for US-style visas to visit and work in Europe.

May said it “ends freedom of movement once and for all”,

Regarding sectors such as hospitality and social care, which rely heavily on EU migrants, she said: “We’ll ensure we recognise the needs of the economy. If you look at these low-skilled areas, we hope there will be the ability to train people here in the UK to take jobs.

"The new skills-based system will make sure low-skilled immigration is brought down and set the UK on the path to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, as we promised.”

However, the plan was slammed by the business sector. The Confederation of British Industry said "restricting access to the workers the UK needs is self-defeating” while the British Retail Consortium said the policy "arbitrarily" drew a line based on salaries or skills, rather than economic needs.

Austerity is over?

Looking ahead at the government's spending plans, May boldly claimed that "austerity is over”.

Following nearly a decade which has slashed £45bn from central government spending, the PM said "the British people need to know that the end is in sight" and it will start to raise spending again.

Testament to this, she revealed it would be funnelling spend into cancer research and care projects, freezing of fuel duty and scrapping the borrowing cap for local councils wanting to build new homes.

The chancellor's Budget is due to be revealed in just over three weeks.

Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said businesses would have been "reassured" by the "firm pledge" to back business.

However, he went on: “Warm words are not enough, and businesses expect concrete measures in the Budget and beyond to fix the fundamentals here at home, and underpin future competitiveness, productivity, and prosperity."

Digital Service Tax

Earlier in the week, chancellor Phillip Hammond suggested that Britain could implement a new digital service tax. It would be aimed squarely at tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook in the event that an international agreement on how to tax these companies is not reached.

“The best way to tax international companies is through international agreements but the time for talking is coming to an end and the stalling has to stop,” Hammond said.

“If we cannot reach agreement, the UK will go it alone with a Digital Services Tax of its own.”

The proposal would see a tax applied to tech companies above a “substantial” size and would be dependent on how much of their business was done in the UK.

Read Mando chief executive, Becky Mundy’s views on how the advertising industry can prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

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