MPs need to be more enterprising to win the hearts of innovators

Facebook picked Britain as the location for its largest engineering hub outside the US. A Facebook spokeswoman said we were chosen due to our “entrepreneurial ecosystems and engineering excellence”. Making Britain the best place to start and grow a business and attracting big tech companies, is part of the answer to solve our productivity problem and boost dreary growth forecasts. 

The Entrepreneurs Network, in a survey conducted by YouGov and released today, asked MPs which policies would encourage and help entrepreneurship in the UK: Conservative MPs reckon a ‘hard Brexit’ will help founders, while Labour MPs think we’d be better off stopping Brexit altogether;  Labour are less keen than in previous years to lower business taxes; and all of Westminster are warming to the idea of making it easier for highly skilled workers to venture to the UK.

A majority of the entrepreneurs in our network voted to remain, and business polls pre-referendum showed most businesses felt the same way. Conservative MPs don’t share the same sentiment: a healthy majority of 66% of Conservative MPs want a ‘hard Brexit’ compared to only 8% of Labour MPs, when asked what would be best for UK entrepreneurship. In a similar vein, 71% of the Labour Party think remaining in the EU would be best for entrepreneurial activity in the UK, compared to 10% of the Conservative Party. If the Conservative Party want to remain the party of business, they will need to find other ways to appeal to entrepreneurs.

Perhaps one of these other ways could be in their continued support of low personal and business taxes. Our entrepreneurs will be pleased to hear that 91% of Conservative MPs think lowering personal taxes would be good for entrepreneurship, compared to just 26% of Labour MPs. Corbyn appealed to entrepreneurs and small business owners in his manifesto with penalties for late payments and scrapping quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of less than £85,000. Corbyn must drop his ‘tax ‘em high’ mindset, if he wishes to have continued support from these groups. 

For our entrepreneurs, both main parties are like one of those sweetened vitamin tablets: they might be sweet on the outside, but they leave a nasty taste in your mouth when you get to their core. Vote Conservative and you might get a Hard Brexit but low taxes, vote Labour and you could get a soft Brexit or even remaining in the EU but with higher taxes. 

The Parliamentary Snapshot did find something for every entrepreneur to smile about: MPs are increasingly open to the idea of welcoming highly skilled workers into the UK. Conservatives went from 40% to 50% from 2014-2017 and Labour, 53% to 70% in the same time frame. Despite differences over taxes and Brexit, MPs open minded attitude towards immigration of high skilled workers serves as an antidote for entrepreneurs. 

Our parliamentarians are increasingly aware of the issues facing entrepreneurs and are increasingly willing to help. But there is some way to go yet, too often tax relief and investment schemes that remain highly prized by innovators but unknown and undervalued by elected officials.

At least MPs are beginning recognise the importance of skilled talent, both to brand UK and to solving our productivity crisis. So, if they want more successes like Facebook, they should listen to what entrepreneurs are saying would be good for them.