Theresa May to launch Brexit business advisory group

Government trying to build bridges with industry, says Downing Street

UK prime minister Theresa May will launch a new business advisory group on Thursday as her government tries to build bridges with financial and trade bodies during Brexit negotiations.

Ms May will chair the first in a regular series of meetings of the business council in Downing Street, with discussions due to focus on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and wider economic issues such as the government’s industrial strategy.

The forum aims to give business a direct link to the prime minister and her senior team running the government’s Brexit strategy, her office said.

Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, business secretary Greg Clark, and junior Brexit minister Robin Walker, will join Thursday's meeting, along with business figures Ralf Speth from Jaguar Land Rover, Tesco's Dave Lewis and Prudential's Paul Manduca.


Stephen Martin from the Institute of Directors, Carolyn Fairbairn, from the Confederation of British Industry, and Mike Cherry from the Federation of Small Businesses will also be among the guests.

The prime minister is looking for allies as she seeks to reassert her authority over her weakened minority Tory government, while at the same time pushing for a good Brexit deal in Brussels.

Difficult backdrop

On Tuesday, Ms May clamped down on senior ministers after days of poisonous briefings and counter-briefings to the media by supporters of rival candidates to replace her.

The infighting made a difficult backdrop for Brexit secretary David Davis and his team of officials to make progress in the second full round of talks on Britain's withdrawal from the EU, taking place this week in Brussels.

In an extraordinary public statement on Sunday, Mr Hammond claimed he had become a target for Brexit-supporting colleagues who wanted to undermine him because they did not want his vision of a business-friendly Brexit that focused on minimising disruption to gain traction.

"The prime minister said that the briefings and counter-briefings over the weekend had been a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously," Ms May's spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London after Tuesday's cabinet meeting.– (Bloomberg)