Five things we learnt at party conferences

As the 2018 party conference season draws to a close, ADS reflects on the key themes and discussions over the past three weeks.

Conservatives focus on unity to deliver Brexit

In the shadow of the Salzburg summit, the Prime Minister faced a tough job coming to Birmingham to keep her Brexit plans on the road. Rallying around the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers have stressed the importance of party unity. Likewise in conference fringe meetings, many backbench MPs called for the party to come together to give the Prime Minister breathing space in the Brexit negotiations. The message was clear from business: we need a deal.

Labour puts itself on a general election footing

Liverpool hosted an energised Labour Party as their conference got underway with the leadership seeking a general election to deliver an alternative Brexit vision. A carefully worded motion agreed by the party left open the option of campaigning for a second EU referendum. Jeremy Corbyn positioned Labour as “ready to take charge”, focusing on “a radical plan to rebuild and transform our country” as “a real alternative to the people of Britain”.

The watchword for business was “partnership”

In responding to the challenges that lie ahead for business, priorities around industrial strategy, and prosperity were core to the conversations ADS had with Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative politicians. Partnering with government and parliamentarians to deliver growth and competitiveness, such as through the Aerospace Sector Deal, were key messages.

Supporting SMEs was a central theme

At all conferences, MPs were keen to do more to support SMEs across the Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors. SMEs and supply chains were frequent topics of discussion at events hosted by ADS. In the context of Brexit, cash flow issues that could result as a consequence of Brexit were highlighted as a key issue ahead of the Budget at the end of this month. ADS also highlighted the need to for further support in supply chain productivity programmes to boost the UK’s global competitiveness.

Politicians pledged to support opportunities across our sectors

MPs demonstrated their support for our sectors around the opportunities coming from the Farnborough International Airshow in July, including the Combat Air Strategy and Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter. ADS members highlighted the importance of bids into the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, such as the Amy Johnson challenge which looks to build the ecosystem and technology needed in relation to future flight and aviation.