Back from holiday and rested after one of the fastest leadership races on record, Theresa May has a challenging 100 days ahead of her as Parliament returns from Summer Recess on Monday 5th September. Several of these are likely to be:
- G20 Summit: 4th/5th September
The G20 Leader’s summit, taking place on 4th and 5th of September in Hangzhou China will be May’s first outing as PM at a G20 meeting. The theme of the summit “Toward an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economy” will likely raise issues such as the continuing refugee crisis, competitive devaluations, global cooperation on corporate tax evasion, and of course, Brexit. The G20 will be hoping that May can alleviate their concerns about the impact Brexit could have on the global economy. This is also an important opportunity for May to find allies, and potential future trade partners.
- First PMQs of the New Parliament: 7th September
May will head into her first PMQs in a confident mood. She was widely praised in the Press after her first outing at the dispatch box with Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Corbyn, she has the support of the majority of her party, and easy material ready to be weaponized following Corbyn’s Train-Gate debacle.
Corbyn’s attempts to implement a “more civilized…less theatrical” PMQs last September seems a distant failure, and May is unlikely to shy away from going on the attack. She too may have some explaining to do. Provided Margret from Norfolk doesn’t have a more pressing question, Corbyn may well lead on last week’s reports of upcoming NHS cuts due to a £20bn funding shortfall.
A poor performance from the shadow front benches may well make, a 2017 election a more tantalising prospect. Regardless of the result of the Corbyn/Smith contest, Labour finds itself in a challenging situation after months of self-mutilation. However May seems to have put this notion aside until there is greater certainty about the future of the UK; perhaps she is also concerned by the growing turbulence in Western democracy.
- Meeting of the European Council of Ministers: 16th September
On 16th September the Heads of States of 27 EU members will meet in Bratislava; May wasn’t invited and will have to monitor from Downing Street. Donald Tusk is expected to use these talks to give EU members a chance to begin formulating their strategy for dealing with Brexit negotiations. As May and her team ready their hand, she will be watching closely to size up where there are issues of mutual agreement, and where there are issues which will cause conflict. Passporting rights, which are central to the UK financial sector will be a particularly critical issue.
- Conference speech: 5th October
With May on holiday for much of August the Westminster press has been speculating about what a Theresa May premiership will look like. Her speech at Party Conference, entitled “A Party That Works For Everyone” will be her chance to set out her intentions for the coming four years, shedding light on what ‘Mayism’ means for Britain. She may well expand on the central themes of her Birmingham speech, shedding more light on subjects such as the new industrial strategy, curbing executive pay, and altering Osbourne’s devolution packages.
- Heathrow decision: Expected mid-October
May will want a decision by October, to put to bed the issue which haunted Cameron for so long. It is almost certain that London will get another runway. Heathrow remains the favourite, as it was under Cameron. Nonetheless there is a credible plan B in Gatwick, which would surely please many of May’s Maidenhead constituents, who live under the Heathrow flight path.
- Immigration stats: Expected 25th November
Late in November, the ONS will publish the quarterly net immigration statistics, an affair which saw continually rising figures under Cameron, fueling much of the Eurosceptic sentiment. May must consider whether to continue her predecessors unsuccessful arbitrary caps, or move to a more flexible approach. She will look stronger if she can suggest her plan on immigration by this date.
Brexit negotiations are likely to significantly shape immigration policy, as the UK’s stance on immigration will undoubtedly tip the UK’s hand at the Brussels negotiating table, with the potential to harden anti-UK sentiment in Europe.
- Autumn Statement: Expected late November/early December
The Autumn statement could well see the UK change course from austerity, with Philip Hammond likely to consider cheap borrowing, and funding for a new Industrial Strategy. Greg Clark may be forced to wrangle with the chancellor and Theresa May however if he is to indeed get full control of Mrs May’s pet project, industrial strategy.
Continuing on the course away from austerity, May and Hammond will be eager to distance the new Conservative Government from the chaotic and often controversial nature of Osbourne’s statements. This is likely to include policies that will enforce May’s One Nation Conservatism.
- Hinkley Point: Sometime in the next three months
Speculation has circled on the purpose of the review of the controversial project, with insiders indicating that May is being cautious about committing so much public money to a project that she inherited. Certainly, the review of the new nuclear plant in Somerset has had repercussions to the UK’s relationship with China, something she will be keen to nurse while visiting Hangzhou for the G20.
With the precarious position the UK is in post-Brexit, certainty for international investors would be shattered if Hinckley did not go ahead. Canceling the project does not fit within May’s challenge to “make Brexit a success for the UK”, as relations with the Chinese and the French would be put on a knife edge.
May could look to renegotiate the deal with the Chinese and French investors to reduce the burden on the UK tax payer. The need for new energy generation is apparent and May is aware that decision needs to be taken to secure the UK’s future energy supply. The decision on Hinkley is likely to indicate May’s wider future energy policy.
Theresa May has already shown her willingness to become an interventionist Prime Minister and with so many challenges across Government to face in the coming months, we expect her to be heavily involved in all aspects of government. The key decisions for Hinkley Point and the Autumn Statement will all need her seal of approval, as Mayism begins to take full force. How May deals with these challenges over the coming months will be key to solidifying her position as Prime Minister and maintaining the Conservative majority.