In a warmly received speech to business leaders at the CBI’s annual conference, the Prime Minister vowed to slash corporation tax to 17p by 2020 and increasing research and development funding by £2 billion.
Her announcement was accompanied by a pledge from Chancellor Philip Hammond to boost broadband coverage in Britain with a £1 billion injection of cash.
The new economic policies were a statement of intent to make Britain the most competitive country in the world and bring new economic prosperity with the shackles of Brussels rule thrown off.
Mrs May suggested that the Brexit vote is already paying dividend with the latest “massive vote of confidence” in Britain from social media giant Facebook who unveiled plans to create an extra 500 jobs in the UK when it opens a new headquarters in London next year.
An “ambitious” Prime Minister hailed the “opportunities” now available to Britain.
She said: “Opportunities to get out into the world and do new business with old allies and new partners.
“To use the freedoms that come from negotiating with partners directly, to be flexible, to set our own rules and forge new and dynamic trading agreements that work for the whole UK.
“Opportunities to become the true global champion of free trade.
“And opportunities to demonstrate how a free, flexible, ambitious country like Britain can trade freely with others according to what’s in their own best interests and those of their people.”
She went on: “I am ambitious for Britain.
“I believe that if we approach the difficult negotiations to come in the right way, with the right spirit, we can strike a deal that’s right for Britain and right for the rest of Europe too.”
In a put down to the authors of the Remain campaign’s Project Fear, including the CBI, who claimed a Brexit vote would see business flee from the country, she noted that: “Facebook is just one example” of major companies investing in Britain since the historic vote.”
She also highlighted Nissan’s decision to build two next generation models at its plant in the North East, securing 7,000 jobs; a record £24 billion investment from Softbank in Britain’s future; a £500 million expansion and 3,000 jobs from Jaguar Land Rover; a £200 million investment from Honda; £275 million from Glaxo Smith Kline; investment in a new headquarters from Apple; and an estimated £1 billion investment and 3,000 new jobs from Google.
Mrs May also appeared to lay out a social contract with business for it to get behind the country but start to behave more responsibly in exchange for new investment.
However, she appeared to perform a U-turn on plans to have workers represented on boards, but warned company bosses they need to engage with employees more effectively.
She also made it clear there will be binding votes by shareholders to curb excessive pay.
Mrs May told business organisation the CBI that she wanted a partnership with firms as part of a “great national effort” – but warned that a minority of rogue bosses had damaged public opinion of the corporate world.
The Prime Minister said the Government was preparing to take action to tackle problems with executive pay and accountability and would ensure employees have a “voice” in the boardroom – but promised to “work with the grain of business” on the reforms.
Mrs May’s vision for Brexit Britain was praised by business leaders.
CBI director general Caroline Fairbairn said Mrs May had set out an ” ambitious and inclusive” vision for the economy , adding that she welcomed the commitment to providing clarity on her Brexit negotiations.
“Businesses around the UK will strongly welcome a progressive partnership between industry and Government,” she said.
Terry Scuoler, chief executive of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said it was good that the Prime Minister had outlined the beginnings of what a post-Brexit industrial strategy should look like.
He added: “Manufacturers are willing to pick up the gauntlet the Prime Minister has thrown down and contribute to driving up the UK’s productivity performance.”
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said business leaders will be pleased to get more information on the Government’s industrial strategy and welcomed the boost to research.
Company directors would be “significantly reassured” by the speech, particularly the proposals on employee representation on boards.
Meanwhile, former Chancellor George Osborne urged Mrs May to go even further with tax cuts to help boost Brexit Britain and take on the EU.
He Tweeted: “Good to see briefing that corporation tax should be cut again. We got it from 28% to 17%. Next step let’s go to 15% & show UK open to biz”.