28 August 2018 | By Peter McManus Insight

Six political milestones to look out for

With a busy autumn ahead, what can we expect from Westminster, the party conferences and European negotiations?

Almost 20 years to the day, Tony Blair – just over a year into his Premiership – recalled MPs from their sun loungers to approve emergency anti-terrorist laws in the wake of the Omagh bombing. Barring any similar crises, Parliament will return from its summer recess on 4 September, kicking off four months that are set to be even more helter-skelter than the previous eight. With so much going on, here are the key political milestones you should keep an eye on to ensure you cut through the political noise.


Party conference season is usually a good litmus test of a leader’s strength, and this year it kicks off with the Lib Dems decamping to Brighton in mid-September. Although Vince Cable is having a shaky period of his own as Lib Dem leader, in truth all eyes will be on the Labour and Conservative conferences later in the month – in Liverpool and Birmingham respectively. Will any of the party leaders come out the other side in a stronger position with members and MPs? How much internal common ground can either of the two main parties find, particularly on the thorny issue of Brexit? Join the CBI and senior political figures at our conference business events in both Liverpool and Birmingham this year.

September also brings us the Salzburg Summit. Although originally intended to be an informal meeting of EU country leaders, it now seems that Brexit will be very much on the menu. Given the UK Government’s strategy of reaching out directly to member states to aid the Brexit talks, Theresa May will see this as a huge opportunity to change the course of the negotiations and sell her Chequers plan directly to EU leaders. The Salzburg Summit, therefore, has the potential to be a moment of real significance in the run-up to October’s European Council.


Once Conference season winds down for another year, October’s EU Council awaits the Prime Minister. Coming less than six months before the UK’s departure from the EU, both the UK Government and Brussels intended to get the divorce deal done at this Council – leaving enough time to ratify the deal in both Parliaments. An October agreement is looking increasingly optimistic so if a deal can’t be done, then we may see an emergency Council meeting later in the year. For more information, visit the CBI’s Brexit hub here.


Although a date is yet to be confirmed, we can expect the Chancellor’s Annual Budget to take place in mid to late November. With Philip Hammond having halved the number of fiscal events to once a year, this Autumn Budget takes on even more relevance than usual. The CBI will publish its budget submission ahead of the big day, but we already know the Chancellor is under pressure to find the extra £20bn committed to the NHS earlier this summer. Although the Prime Minister has said some of the cash will come from a “Brexit dividend”, businesses will be concerned about the risk of extra tax rises to pay for it. This is especially considering new CBI data showing that, in 2017, UK firms contributed £186bn in taxes – more than the Government spends on the NHS and transport. For more information, read the CBI’s UK business tax contribution analysis here.

Turning to world affairs, late November brings us the G20 summit. After the fireworks of June’s G7 summit – and coming just a matter of weeks after the US mid-term elections – the annual meeting of leaders from the top 20 world economies has the potential to be a fascinating one. Although the official agenda in Argentina covers the future of work, infrastructure for development and a sustainable food future, all eyes will be on the dynamics – both personal and political – between Trump, Putin, Erdoğan, Macron et al.

Finally, expect the Government’s long-awaited Immigration White Paper to be released towards the end of the year. Nearly two years in the making, the Paper will outline the UK’s proposed approach to future migration after the country leaves the EU. The independent Migration Advisory Committee, asked to provide the Government with an evidence base to determine future immigration policy, will report back in early Autumn so business will be looking for a White Paper with economic and business evidence at its core. The CBI recently set out what business wants to see in “Open and controlled”,  a report based on evidence from leading trade associations, representing nearly 130,000 members across 18 industry sectors.

As things unfold in the coming weeks and months, the CBI will be here to ensure you get the insight and analysis you need. For more information, get in touch with me here, and to find out what CBI membership could do for your organisation, click here.

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