House of Commons Library

Industrial strategy

Published Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Theresa May's Government has adopted a new approach to support for industry. This briefing paper brings together what information has been published describing the new strategy.

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Industrial strategy is about coordinating a wide range of economic policies to achieve particular objectives, which need not be purely economic.

Industrial strategy under the May Government

During her leadership campaign and early into her premiership, Theresa May signalled a return to a more active and explicit industrial strategy, compared with the previous Coalition Government and Cameron Government.

The publication of the green paper called Building our Industrial Strategy on 23 January 2017 is the latest development in this policy area. Whilst the current Government’s strategy marks a clear shift towards more prominence and emphasis placed on industrial strategy, there is also a significant degree of continuity with previous policies. The difference in substance may turn out to be less great than in letter, though much detail remains to be determined. The strategy set out in the green paper is not “the last word, but [the] start [of] a consultation.”

The Government invites organisations and the public to respond. The consultation closes on 17 April 2017.

Key goals of the Government’s industrial strategy

  • Build on UK strengths and extend excellence into the future;
  • close the gap between the UK’s most productive companies, industries, places and people and the rest; and
  • make the UK one of the most competitive places in the world to start or grow a business.

The green paper identifies ten ‘pillars’ for the industrial strategy that are said to drive growth. The actions described under each pillar are a mixture of existing policies and ‘new commitments’.

The bulk of the strategy proposes ‘horizontal’ policy interventions, such as investments in skills, research and infrastructure, facilitating access to finance and keeping costs down for businesses.

Risks and opportunities of Brexit

In common with many areas of Government policy, industrial strategy could be radically altered by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Aspects of industrial strategy that could see significant risks and opportunities from Brexit include state aid rules, trade, investment, and research.

The Government's green paper contains little analysis of what Brexit might mean for industrial strategy. The paper states that the Government will welcome an agreement to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives, and that procurement policy will no longer be constrained by EU law. There are no other explicit attempts to link up the Government's industrial and Brexit strategies.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7682

Author: Federico Mor

Topics: Economic policy, Industry

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