In a speech at EEF’s Technology Hub in Birmingham, Corbyn announced 'Build it in Britain', the Labour Party’s vision for reviving British industry following Brexit, including an increased focus on enhanced infrastructure and a boost to skills.
Corbyn criticised the historic approach to manufacturing of the past 40 years, calling it “a kind of magical thinking.”
“We’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced, for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely instead on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector,” he said. “A lack of support for manufacturing is sucking the dynamism out of our economy, pay from the pockets of our workers and any hope of secure well-paid jobs from a generation of our young people.”
Pointing towards the £200 billion spent each year by the UK government on the private sector, Corbyn added that re-focusing that spending “gives us levers to stimulate industry” and “encourage businesses to act in people’s interests”.
Corbyn also called out Theresa May’s government over recent high-profile decisions to move manufacturing abroad, focusing particularly on UK passports being manufactured in France (“Unsurprisingly the French aren’t queuing up to have their French passports made in Britain.”), train carriages and warships. “Carrying on like this is simply not sustainable,” he warned.
To combat this, Corbyn announced a “three-pronged approach”, focused on investing in infrastructure and skills and supporting SMEs. On the latter point, Corbyn promised to give smaller companies more say in the tendering process, “instead of them being dominated by faceless multinationals.”
When asked whether the announcement shared similarities with Donald Trump’s controversial protectionist economic policies, Corbyn said: “It’s not economic nationalism, it’s good sense to invest in the skills that we’ve already got here, and to improve those skills for the future. Nobody’s ever said I have something in common with Donald Trump before. It’s news to both of us, I suspect.”
On Brexit, Corbyn criticised the Conservative Party’s approach, calling on Theresa May to “reconsider the option of negotiating a brand new customs union”, adding that the PM is more willing to “listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson” than manufacturing. “Never before has a Prime Minister discarded the interests of the country so recklessly in favour of the interests of their own party or their own self-preservation,” he said.
Following his speech, Corbyn toured the 108,000 square-foot facility of automation and additive manufacturing specialists Protolabs in Telford.
Read the full transcript of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at EEF’s Technology Hub in Aston here.