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What more can hospitality businesses glean about the future direction of the country from the final leadership debate

Posted By Richard Clifford, UKHospitailty, 10 December 2019

With only days until the General Election, the party leaders have now faced off for the final time. Over the campaign, the two parties have laid out policy positions that contrast as sharply as those within any UK General Election campaign in recent memory. Last Friday was the last of three opportunities to see Corbyn and Johnson head to head, clashing on their respective visions for the country.

Following that clash, what more can hospitality sector businesses glean about the future direction of the country? The truth is: not a lot. In each debate, both candidates have given sharp enough performances, outlining the key themes that they are attempting to persuade voters with. Many of the issues that the will impact the hospitality sector were largely absent from the debate. The excuse given by CCHQ for Johnson’s refusal to sit down with Andrew Neil - that it is a ‘tired format’ that ‘needs to change if it is to start engaging the public’- would perhaps be better applied to the leaders debates. There were few memorable moments and so many key areas remained untouched.

The common theme for all the debates, unsurprisingly, was Brexit; Friday’s debate was no exception. Like other sectors, hospitality is thirsty for clarity on Brexit after December 12th. Going head to head, both candidates stuck to their respective Brexit mantras, with Johnson repeatedly portraying himself as the only candidate able to ‘get Brexit done.’ Corbyn meanwhile, put forward Labour’s plans to renegotiate the deal and have a referendum within 6 months.

Both parties claim should be treated with caution. Further ambiguity on the outcome of Brexit, including the prospect of another protracted referendum campaign, could deter investment in the UK, while the Conservative’s refusal to take No Deal off the table during trade negotiations runs contrary to the widely held view that a no deal Brexit would have a significant and detrimental impact across the sector.

The debates stuck largely to either Brexit or other emotive issues such as the NHS; it’s a shame that the connection between businesses – from where we gain our employment and incomes – and the public, seemed to have bypassed our political leaders’ debates.

Regardless of who wins the election, hospitality businesses will be hopeful that these issues are addressed as an area of priority, not as an afterthought. Each party has outlined some major changes in these areas within their manifestos, which are detailed in greater depth here.

Come early Friday morning, the UK will (or should) know which vision of the future the public have chosen. While the debates may not have recognised it, whichever candidate walks through the doors of 10 Downing Street, the impact on the hospitality sector will be considerable. 

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