Conservative conference 2017: Boris Johnson urges Tories to ‘let the lion roar’ in upbeat speech – live | Politics


Afternoon summary

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Business minister warns of ‘over-optimistic attitude’ about Commonwealth trade deals

Small business minister Margot James has sounded a cautious note about Brexiteers being too optimistic about trade deals post Brexit. She told a fringe meeting:


There is a little bit of an over-optimistic attitude about the extent of trade we can summon up with Commonwealth countries.

There are 51 of them. We export more to Germany [than] we do to the entire Commonwealth, so there’s a lot of work to be done … We export seven times as much to Germany as we do to India.

She indicated a new trade bill would be published before Christmas but said the UK had to replace not just European economic development funds from the EU but also venture capital funds which feed into one third of small to medium-sized businesses.

The MP for Stourbridge and former PPS to Stephen Green when he was minister for trade and investment said Britain had to do a lot better on exports.

The “vast majority of small and medium sized businesses” do not export and will struggle to help the nation’s economy grow unless there is investment in skilling them up for overseas markets, she said.

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Rees-Mogg says Conservative party treats its members ‘appallingly’

Jacob Rees-Mogg has compared this year’s Conservative conference to a North Korea-style rally, saying the party will face a crisis unless members are given more stake.

Rees-Mogg said ordinary party members had no power to debate policy compared to when he first entered politics. He told a Policy Exchange fringe meeting:


It has now become like an American presidential convention where we just expect them to turn up and cheer the great and the good. It isn’t even American, it’s Kim Jong Un style. If it stays like that for long enough we’re going to be in real trouble.

Asked about whether the party needed to give more power to its members, Rees-Mogg said:


We treat them appallingly. We expect them to do all the work, deliver all the leaflets, go out in the rain and then the CPF [the members’ policy-making forum] sends in its reports and it gets ignored. We used to have system that took the policy ideas from our members seriously.

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