YP Comment: Theresa May – now for the hard Brexit graft

Theresa May arrives for the second day of the EU summit.
Theresa May arrives for the second day of the EU summit.
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AS ASSESSMENTS are made of Theresa May’s first 100 days as premier, she certainly deserves credit for stabilising the country following the manner of David Cameron’s resignation and for her business-like style of government.

As Tory leader, Mrs May’s agenda on aspiration should also be applauded. Education remains the best route out of poverty, though the time likely to be spent arguing about the merits – or otherwise – of new grammar schools might be better spent on tackling the dearth of world-class teachers for example.

Time will also tell whether Government’s economic interventionism will yield more tangible results than George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse – next month’s Autumn Statement will set the political parameters for the rest of the decade.

Equally Mrs May’s sound intentions on domestic policy are dwarfed by the elephant in the room – Brexit – and her first EU summit was a reminder that this one issue, and final outcome, will determine the Prime Minister’s place in history. Leaving aside a dysfunctional EU which always seems to discuss affairs of state in the middle of the night, rather than a more civilised hour, the Tory leader was quite correct to remind her counterparts that Britain is still a fully paid-up member of the European Union and should be treated as such until Article 50 is invoked.

In her asserting authority, it was also significant that more people – 46 per cent – think that Mrs May will secure a good Brexit deal for Britain than those who do not (39 per cent). While the first 100 days has established Mrs May as a leader, and stateswoman, the next 100 days will determine whether she can make sense of the UK’s exit from the EU with a wafer-thin Commons majority as her myriad of opponents find their voices. It’s a formdiable task only made marginally easier by her calm approach thus far.

Good business

THE newly-opened Victoria Gate retail complex in the heart of Leeds is winning deserved plaudits – and this development, anchored by never knowingly undersold department store John Lewis, is another vote of confidence in the burgeoning Yorkshire economy. Not only is this county home to the some of the country’s most successful shopping centres, but also niche destinations such as Harrogate, Ilkley and Skipton which have retained their distinct identity.

Now this successful relationship between local politicians and business leaders needs to be applied to transport and infrastructure so that this region can finally fulfil its untapped economic potential. Despite the best endeavours of MPs like Rachel Reeves when it comes to new stations, such as Kirkstall Forge, this region remains the ‘poor relation’ when it comes to the allocation of Government funds for the type of road and rail improvements which are already long overdue.

Though Theresa May’s intentions are sound, the same was also true of her more recent predecessors. And, while much will hinge on this area’s devolution settlement if and when a consensus is reached, top entrepreneurs certainly need to be more vocal when it comes to banging the drum for Yorkshire and making the case for better transport links. Good business for them, such an approach will represent very good business for this region if Ministers appreciate that such an approach is in the interests of all, and not just the privileged South. Now who is going to take the lead?

Farming focus

THIS weekend’s Countryside Live gathering, the now traditional Autumn celebration of Yorkshire agriculture, comes at a critical time for farmers. Not only is the Rural Payments Agency once again mishandling subsidy payments, but they’re still unclear on the full financial ramifications of Brexit and waiting to see whether Ministers are remotely capable of seizing the initiative and introducing even clearer labelling laws which champion British produce.

However it’s also important, if this county and country are to become more self-sufficient, that a new generation of farmers are nurtured. Yet, according to a new survey, existing subsidy arrangements are not always conducive to setting up new – and successful – farm businesses. The Government has a historic opportunity to invest in UK agriculture on its terms, and not those of the European Union, and it’s time for Ministers to flesh out a vision for the future at the very least.