When Theresa May came to power in 2016 and announced that the Department of Trade and Industry was to become the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, those of us arguing for Britain to pursue a robust industry strategy could have been forgiven for thinking that the government had heeded our calls.
In the weeks that followed, the prime minister’s announcement was trailed by soundbites about the need to ‘protect manufacturing’. Studies were commissioned into productivity, and into German policies that protect its medium-sized supply-chain companies (known as ‘the Mittelstand’). There was talk of skill shortages ending. UK manufacturing, we were told, was to be the powerhouse of the economy.