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The B-word pariah and export tips

Plus, how social media is moving beyond clickbait, the decline in takeovers and the campaign that "pissed off" the public and made an icon

Brexit written on a wall with censored sign over it

All eyes turned to Salford last night for the hotly anticipated debate between Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer. The leaders of the Labour and Conservative parties took swings at each other over issues including taxes, the NHS and immigration. Two notable exclusions from the discussion were what the parties are doing to woo the business community and the topic du jour of the 2019 campaign: Brexit. 

While everyone is sick of hearing the term, that cheeky little B-word has become a political hot potato that neither major party wants to touch. Former Conservative MP Rory Stewart puts this down to the tightrope act around the so-called ‘red wall’ (constituencies in the North and the Midlands of England):

Sunak and Starmer are pushing for these red-wall voters and didn’t want to sound like they’re anti-Brexit. But presumably, there was an opportunity to say, whatever you think about Brexit, you guys have got nothing out of it. You’ve really screwed this one up.

Alastair Campbell, former Labour strategist and Stewart’s fellow host on The Rest is Politics podcast, put the blame for the omission on ITV:

I do think that’s a failure of our broadcasters to understand that there are millions of people who at least want to see this as part of the debate.

A report from the think tank UK in a Changing Europe shows there is still a lot of work to be done. Its research found that the export of UK services has boomed despite Brexit, growing 29 per cent since February 2020. This includes financial services (such as banking and accounting) and professional services (such as logistics and legal). However, the export of goods has been in steady decline. The report notes:

While other advanced economies have seen a modest recovery in goods trade, the same has not happened in the UK. 

UK services trade has grown relative to other OECD countries

The report contains recommendations for the incoming government to improve the environment for businesses that trade internationally. One of these is to help companies make use of trade agreements: 

An agreement only has any value if it is used. Surveys show that a third of companies that could make use of agreements fail to do so. Government support – whether through training, detailed online guides, or otherwise – could allow more businesses to export efficiently.

With four weeks to go until the election, messaging will inevitably ebb and flow, but we can all agree that a more direct vision for business needs to come into focus very soon. Lobby groups have urged the leaders to talk in specifics about what they will do for the business community since the election date was set. Hopefully, things will become a little clearer with the imminent release of the party manifestos.

Business Question

Guess the business leader

  • I was born in Massachusetts 83 years ago today
  • I am the CEO of an eponymous holding company
  • My net worth is $11.1bn
  • I own an NFL and MLS franchise

The answer can be found at the bottom of the page.

Business in Brief

Everything you need to know

1. Takeover deals by foreign companies declined 39 per cent to £6.1bn in the first three months of the year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This marks the lowest figure since 2020. Read more here.

2. Sunak’s claim in last night’s debate that Labour will raise taxes by £2,000 has been slapped down by the chief civil servant at the Treasury, James Bowler. He said the figures used by Sunak “include costs beyond those provided by the civil service and published online by HM Treasury”. You can read more here.

3. Digital bank Zopa is expanding into current accounts, investments and SME lending. It has also embraced the label of disruptor, with CEO Jaidev Janardana saying: “Unlike other banks, I await the day when Andrew Bailey decides it’s time to cut interest rates.” You can read the full interview with Sifted here

4. The potential new owner of Royal Mail appears to have a union headache on his hands. Daniel Křetínský, whose company EP Group is in advanced talks to acquire Royal Mail’s parent firm, has had his plans criticised by the Communication Workers Union. Read more here

5. Getir has revealed its UK results…for 2022. The online food delivery platform is pulling out of the UK market as part of a global restructuring plan. According to the results, the company slumped to a pre-tax loss of £168m, having previously lost £116.1m in 2021. Read the full story here.

Business Quotes

Inspiration from leaders

“Pride is holding your head up when everyone around you has theirs bowed. Courage is what makes you do it.”

– Bryce Courtenay

Business Thinker

Ideas on the future of business and leadership

1. Inflation ain’t behaving

2. Who really benefits from the great remote-work experiment?

3. Why you need to stress test your strategies (and tactics)

And finally…

Tommy Hilfiger is a luxury brand that most know and can identify. But the brand was thrust into the spotlight because of a single marketing campaign. It was masterminded by George Lois, who came up with two ads and had a budget of $200,000. This campaign “pissed off” most people who saw it, but it made Hilfiger the juggernaut it is today.

X user Jeremy Kuo detailed the story in a thread which you can read, and watch, here.

The answer to today’s Business Question is Robert Kraft.

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