UK’s international trade secretary Liz Truss has called for the protection of British firms against “predatory” takeover bids from foreign countries, during a Conservative Party conference speech, as the four-day event kicks off.
While Truss didn’t give any examples, she said: "We need to make sure that, particularly during coronavirus when a lot of companies are undervalued, that we're not allowing the sort of predatory bids from states that don't necessarily have Britain's best interests at heart."
Meanwhile, cabinet office minister Michael Gove has said he wants to move government departments outside the capital in a bid to support prime minister Boris Johnson’s “levelling-up” agenda.
In a conversation at the conference with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Gove said: “Far too many Government jobs tend to be in the Westminster and Whitehall village.
“I think we need some of the big Government departments and the big decision makers not in London but closer to where the action is in the north west, the West Midlands, Teesside and Tyneside.”
Gove argued that remote working during the coronavirus pandemic proves that upheaval can work, he also said it was inevitable that there would be some “churn” in the labour market due to the COVID-19 crisis.
He also spoke on the delivery of free ports, HS2 and the PM’s lifetime skills training guarantee, saying that those would help create opportunities across the country.
Previously, Johnson pledged to do more to create opportunities outside London, following his landslide election win in December which saw traditionally Labour-voting areas across parts of north England, the Midlands and northern Wales vote Tory for the first time.
The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, also discussed the possibility of a Brexit trade deal with the European Union.
“I suspect there will be one or two ups and downs along the way, but I am optimistic that we will get a deal. But if we don’t, we have been making extensive preparations to be ready for anything,” Gove said.
On Saturday, during a video conference call, Johnson and European Commission (EC) president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to “intensify” Brexit trade talks, and to speak on a regular basis.
While the pair acknowledged that “significant gaps remained” between the UK and EU in areas such fisheries and governance, they appeared upbeat that chief negotiators, David Frost and Michel Barnier could agree a deal before the Brexit transition period.
The virtual conference, which opened on Saturday, started with an announcement from co-party chairman Amanda Milling that the party plans to open a second headquarters in Leeds in an effort to “show Tory commitment to the blue wall seats.”
Milling said that the headquarters could open as soon as next year.