Sajid Javid speaks to Cornish business leaders about devolution, EU funding, and what the government is doing to support the local economy.
It’s great to be here, many thanks to Joel for the invite.
Thanks to Barclays for hosting us today.
And thank you all for coming along.
I know you’re all busy people with businesses to run.
But this is a very good opportunity for me to tell you what government is up to, and for you to tell me what more we need to do.
Like most of you I’m a businessman at heart.
I’m a relative novice at politics.
I spent the first 20 years of my adult life working in international finance.
Some would say that’s not a good thing.
I remember when I became culture secretary in 2014, some leading lights of the arts world asked “what does this banker know about culture?”
At least I think they said “banker”.
I don’t know if you saw, earlier this week, the new list of Britain’s most and least-trusted professions.
Nurses, doctors and teachers are at the top, the people the public thinks are most likely to tell the truth.
And down at the very bottom, the least-trusted professions included government ministers, politicians generally, and of course bankers!
Three out of three for me!
For my next job, I’m going to become an estate agent.
Joking aside, I know that everyone in this room went into business or politics for the right reasons.
We all want to make things better.
It might mean passing laws or allocating funding that make a difference.
It might mean delivering a service or a product that nobody else can deliver.
We’re all here because we want to serve our communities in the best way we can.
From what I’ve seen today I think that’s particularly true of smaller businesses here in Cornwall.
It’s a place that has a very strong sense of identity and community, and a very real pride in that.
And that’s something I applaud.
The last time I was back in the south west of England was in October, speaking at a business event in Exeter.
And I talked about how all the counties in the south-west of England can achieve even more when they work together on issues that affect all the people who live here.
This seemed to upset a few people, certainly on Twitter, who thought I was talking up some kind of regional assembly idea.
I think the comment that hurt most was “what do you expect from someone who went to university in Devon!”
But the critics couldn’t be more wrong.
Cornwall is a unique place. A very special place.
By far the biggest county in southern England, it has its own history, its own culture, its own needs.
I’ve absolutely no interest in steamrollering Cornwall into some kind of forced regional identity.
The failed vision of a South West Assembly has rightly been consigned to the scrapheap of history, and there it will stay.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Cornwall exists in isolation.
Devon lies just across the Tamar.
The rest of the South West and the United Kingdom lie beyond.
And, while it’s vitally important that we protect and respect the Cornish identity, there are undoubtedly areas in which working across boundaries can bring benefits to the people of this very special county.
In 2016 people live, work and shop across county lines, across national borders even.
Supply chains and customer bases for even the smallest companies can stretch for hundreds or thousands of miles.
Joined-up, strategic thinking can bring huge benefits to employers, employees and the general public alike.
There are plenty of cases where that’s happening already.
Thanks to Devon and Cornwall Police you have some of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Exeter and Plymouth universities operate in both counties too, with numerous projects that help people right across the south west and beyond.
It just shows how locally-led co-operation is much more effective than top-down, Westminster-imposed regional government.
Which is precisely why I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Cornwall Devolution Deal.
The devolution deal was conceived locally, refined locally and now it’s going to be delivered locally.
It will bring the county closer together and give it a stronger voice when dealing with the wider south west and the rest of the UK.
And, most importantly, it puts power over decisions that affect Cornwall right back where it should be.
In the hands of Cornish people.
That doesn’t mean central government is just leaving Cornwall to get on with it, to sink or swim alone.
We’re still very much on your side.
For starters, we’re guaranteeing funding for European Union projects signed before the UK’s departure from the EU.
You don’t need me to tell you that this move is particularly important for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The area has an allocation of almost £350 million in the current European Regional Development Fund round, nearly £160 million of which has already been allocated.
This guarantee gives Cornish businesses the certainty they need, allowing you to plan for funding that’s already in place and even apply for further EU funding right up until the moment we leave.
And let me be very, very clear that we WILL be leaving the European Union.
The majority of people in Cornwall voted for it, the majority of people right across the UK voted for it.
There will be no backdoor attempts to remain a member, and certainly no second referendum.
Now, you’re all business leaders.
You know as well as I do that you don’t go into a negotiation with all your cards on the table – at least not if you want a good outcome!
When I worked in finance, I knew that the key to landing the best deal was always having better information.
Knowing the stuff the guys on the other side of the table didn’t.
It gave us leverage, it gave us power and it repeatedly gave us success.
So I can’t give you the inside track on our negotiating position.
We won’t be giving you a running commentary on every twist and turn as the negotiations unfold.
But know this.
We’re going to secure a deal that works for all British businesses.
Large and small, international and local, online and high street, in the service sector, in tourism, in the creative industries, in manufacturing, in fisheries, in farming…
Nobody will be left behind.
Of course, there’s more to life than Brexit.
You might not believe it from reading the papers recently, but it’s true!
So our commitment to Cornwall’s economy goes beyond simply steering you through our departure from the EU.
Over the past few years we’ve invested tens of millions of pounds in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly through Local Growth Deals.
The latest round of funding will be announced shortly, but to see the kind of impact it can make you just have to look at the Newquay Growth Area, which I visited earlier today.
£2 million from the first Local Growth Deal paid for transport improvements that have opened up the enterprise zone and created countless jobs for Cornish people.
In the grand scheme of things it’s a relatively small amount of money.
But thanks to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) it was carefully targeted exactly where it would make the biggest difference.
And that’s what local growth funding is all about.
Local business leaders working with local political leaders to deliver local economic success
You’ve got a great LEP here in Cornwall.
I know that your brilliant local MPs are really closely involved with it.
And if you’re not already engaging with the LEP I’d urge you to do so.
After all, you understand Cornish business needs far better than any politician or Westminster bureaucrat. But I know there are some things that ALL businesses want and need.
Top of that list is a strong, stable, growing economy.
And that’s exactly what this government has helped give you for nearly 7 years now.
The economy is 14.3 per cent bigger than it was in 2010
The deficit has been cut by two-thirds.
In 2014, we were the fastest growing economy in the G7.
And in 2015 only the US did better than us.
But this isn’t just a paper recovery, something of interest only to economists.
It’s changing real lives.
Since 2010, the number of unemployed people in Cornwall has halved.
Nationwide, more people are in work than ever before.
We’ve gone from a record-breaking recession to record-breaking employment.
The number of households in which nobody works has fallen by more than 20%t.
And more than a million private sector businesses have been created, a 20% rise.
We want that success to continue.
So we’re cutting Corporation Tax to 17%, the lowest in the G7.
We’re doubling Small Business Rate Relief and cutting the Business Rates of 900,000 smaller properties.
We’re increasing the Employment Allowance by £1,000, helping half a million businesses.
And we’re helping small businesses secure the funding they need in order to grow, with the British Business Bank supporting more than £3 billion of finance.
Businesses leaders like the people in this room are capable of doing great things.
All you need is the right conditions, the right environment.
And I’m proud to say you’ve got a government that’s totally committed to giving you just that.
Maintaining that success for another six, seven, eight years or more is not going to be easy.
There are storm clouds over the global economy.
There are challenges ahead.
And leaving the European Union will be a momentous change for many businesses in this country.
But we’re here today to talk about moving forward in business.
Not looking back, not pondering what might have been.
So let’s look forwards.
Let’s move forwards.
And let’s work together.
So I don’t want to just stand here and talk at you all afternoon.
I’d much rather hear from you.
The truth is, in this job, it’s very easy to spend too much time stuck in London surrounded by politicians, lobbyists and Civil Servants.
If we’re going to make Brexit work, if we’re going to make LEPs work, if we’re going to maintain Cornwall’s incredible record of success, we can’t just be a government of Westminster navel-gazers.
That’s why this government got behind initiatives like the creation of the Tourism Industry Council.
It gives the people who actually work in the tourism sector a direct line to government.
And it helps us all work together to deliver the change you need.
Nobody knows Cornwall better than you.
Nobody else knows as much as you do about what investment is needed where, about what regulations are causing you problems, about what infrastructure needs updating in order to let the economy grow.
So there’s no point me coming here and just giving you the usual sales pitch for half an hour or more.
I’d rather have a conversation.
I’d rather hear what’s on your minds.
If we talk together we can work together.
And if we work together we can do what we’re all here today to do.
We can build a Cornwall that works for everyone.