Business supporters of prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal are among the recipients of New Year honours, in a move likely to raise fresh questions about the interplay between the government and the private sector.
Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens’ British business, and Katherine Bennett, senior vice-president of Airbus in the UK, are both made CBEs.
Ms Bennett said in November that Airbus would reconsider its plans to halt investment in the UK if Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement with Brussels were approved, while Mr Maier stated “we need to make this deal work”.
Overall, more than 1,200 people are decorated in the New Year honours list, including stars of the arts and sport, as well as politicians, officials and business people.
Senior business leaders on the list include Donald Brydon, who is knighted. He will step down as chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group in May after a dispute with shareholders over its former chief executive Xavier Rolet.
Ann Gloag, co-founder of Stagecoach, becomes a dame. In June, the government took control of the East Coast rail franchise after a joint venture involving Stagecoach and Virgin Group ran up losses on the flagship line.
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the former chief executive of Virgin Money who supported the government’s push for transparency on the gender pay gap, is also made a dame.
The former England cricket captain Alastair Cook becomes a knight, while cyclist and Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas is made an OBE.
The England football manager Gareth Southgate also becomes an OBE, after taking the team to the semi-final of the summer’s World Cup, while captain and top scorer Harry Kane is made an MBE.
Comedian Michael Palin is knighted, while Lesley Lawson, aka Twiggy, is made a dame. Author Julia Donaldson and Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan become CBEs.
Vernon Unsworth, the cave diver involved in the rescue of Thai schoolboys during the summer, only to be insulted by Tesla founder Elon Musk, is made an MBE.
Supporters of a second EU referendum have argued that business leaders are unwilling to criticise the government’s Brexit plans publicly, partly because it might jeopardise their chances of being awarded honours.
Britain’s main business lobby groups have backed Mrs May’s deal, arguing that it provides certainty.
Richard Tice, a businessman and founder of the pro-Brexit campaign group Leave Means Leave, said of the CBEs for Mr Maier and Ms Bennett: “This sounds like a continuation of the establishment rewarding people from the world of politics and business who toe the establishment line.”
However, one prominent critic of Mrs May’s Brexit deal is on the New Year honours list. John Redwood, the arch-Eurosceptic Conservative MP who once tried unsuccessfully to topple John Major as prime minister, becomes a knight.
Sir John has described Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement as “unbelievably bad for the UK”.
Jon Thompson, the head of HM Revenue & Customs, who infuriated Brexiters by saying that their alternative to Mrs May’s customs proposal would cost business £20bn a year, is knighted. He revealed in October that he had received two death threats related to his work.
Most of the recipients on the New Year honours list are recognised for work in their local communities.
Mark Prince, who has founded an initiative to tackle knife crime after his son was killed in 2006, becomes an OBE. “It enables me to move the vision forward and give other people hope — young people that were homeless like I was at 15, into a criminal mindset like I was in my teens, and want to turn their life around,” he said.
Additional reporting by Laura Hughes
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