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MPs say May’s industrial plan falls short, risks mistakes

Britain’s new industrial strategy, unveiled earlier this year to prepare the economy for Brexit, is lacking in long-term thinking and risks making the same mistakes as prior, failed plans, a group of MPs said.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced a “Modern Industrial Strategy” in January with the aim of boosting Britain’s weak productivity growth and spurring investment in technology and research and development.

A group of lawmakers from different political parties said in a report published on Friday that the plan lacked a co-ordinated approach across government departments and there was insufficient collaboration with the private sector in areas such as housing.

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in the lower house of Britain’s parliament also called on the government to drop its sector-by-sector approach, which risked “a return to the discredited credo of ‘picking winners'”.

Instead, Britain should focus on broader policies in areas such as helping industries shift away from carbon-intensive power, and address problems in health and social care and transport infrastructure, it said.

The announcement of the plan in January represented a shift by May’s government away from the laissez-faire ideology championed by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher and successive British leaders.

May has said Britain plans to leave not only the European Union but also its single market for goods and workers, raising the prospect of trade barriers for exporters and a shortage of skilled staff.

The EEF, a trade body representing British manufacturers, said the report was right to emphasise a long-term, comprehensive approach and urged the government to be more ambitious.

“It’s helpful to have this critique now at the start of the process and (the government department) mustn’t waste this opportunity to get it right,” the EEF’s chief economist Lee Hopley said.

The EEF also said its members were very concerned about a new levy the government will impose next month to fund apprenticeships, with many upset about the cost and the lack of long-term guarantees on funding.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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