UK prime minister vows low taxes in post-Brexit business pitch

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British Prime Minister Theresa May meets President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (off frame) at the United Nations in New York on September 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Angela Weiss

Prime Minister Theresa May sought Wednesday to reassure business leaders that Britain after Brexit would be “unequivocally pro-business” and have the G20’s lowest corporate tax rate.

In a speech to the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, May expressed confidence that Britain would secure a deal with the European Union before it withdraws from the bloc in March next year.

“A post-Brexit Britain will be an unequivocally pro-business Britain,” she said, adding that businesses should “look forward to the post-Brexit world with confidence”.

She added: “Whatever your business, investing in post-Brexit Britain will give you the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G20,” a reference to the Group of 20 major economies.

Her Conservative party’s manifesto has pledged to reduce the corporate tax rate from 19 percent currently to 17 percent by 2020.

May’s comments came as opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn closed his party’s annual conference in Britain with a very different message.

He warned that as time runs out to get a Brexit deal, “companies are losing patience” and planning to relocate abroad.

“The Tories are well aware of this but some see Brexit as their opportunity to impose a free market shock doctrine in Britain,” he said.

Corbyn condemned May’s vow on corporate tax as “handouts to the few, paid for by the many and an already tried-and-failed strategy for boosting investment”.

Elsewhere, May acknowledged that in the Brexit talks, “the coming weeks will be critical” but said she was confident the two sides could strike a deal.

Last week, EU leaders meeting in Salzburg rejected her plan for future economic ties, and demanded a rethink by a summit in mid-October.

May’s plan would see Britain follow EU rules on goods but not on services, and maintain freedom to strike its own trade deals with non-EU countries.

She said “there is no other plan” that protects jobs, fulfils the promises of the 2016 vote for Brexit and avoids physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

May also said that while Britain would end the free movement of workers from the EU after Brexit, it would continue to allow businesses and universities to “attract the brightest and the best”.