Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's shadow City ministerGetty

Labour's Jonathan Reynolds has returned to the party's front bench and is now launching a charm offensive of the UK's financial services sector.

The shadow City minister told IBTimes UK the businesses community should think twice about where Theresa May's priorities lie, following the prime minister's controversial speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham earlier this month.

"If you've seen what Theresa May has said so far, you cannot say that she's taken it as red this is a strategically important sector that deserves special attention," he said

The comments come after a screeching U-turn from the government over plans to force businesses to list the number of foreign workers they employ.

The proposal was met with fierce opposition in the City and further afield.

The British Chamber of Commerce branded it a "badge of shame", while the Federation of Small Businesses warned its members could be turned into "immigration officers".

But Labour has not avoided criticism from business bodies, particularly after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell's speech to the party's annual conference in Liverpool in September.

"In the business community there is little appetite for widespread government intervention," said Simon Walker, the director general of the Institute of Directors.

Reynolds, a former vice-chair of the centre-left Progress Group, is hoping to improve relations.

The Stalybridge and Hyde MP quit Jeremy Corbyn's top team in protest over the sacking of Pat McFadden as shadow Europe minister in January.

With the UK's vote to leave the EU and Corbyn's re-election, Reynolds thought it important to return to the front bench. His time on the Business Select Committee also meant he had experience in the area.

"This is something I feel very comfortable with. There are a lot of people who are in the City who are Labour sympathetic or Labour members," Reynolds said.

"A lot of people who may not identify with Labour or have a political affiliation who will want to work with the opposition in parliament to make sure Brexit works for the best interests of the UK."

Sir Kier Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer Reuters

He revealed Labour plans to establish a multidisciplinary team similar to May's Brexit cabinet sub-committee to coordinate the party's responses and attacks on the issue.

The grouping will be headed by the Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who last week demanded David Davis answer 170 questions on the government's plans to split from the EU.

"Brexit is going to be issue one, two and three. The first question I asked was: 'How will we coordinate our response to Brexit given that it covers almost every shadow team?'," Reynolds said.

The shadow City minister wants the government to prioritise the economy as it negotiates the UK's exit from the EU, while opposing "piecemeal deals" for parts of Britain.

"We want a comprehensive holistic deal being done because that will be the best way to get the best deal for the UK," Reynolds said.

"We want the City to have passports and we want them to have access to the single-market, but we want that to be part of a comprehensive deal."

The remarks come after the Financial Times claimed the government was considering a proposal to continue make some EU budget contributions in return for full single-market access for City workers.

Reynolds inherits his brief from Corbyn ally Richard Burgon, who has been promoted to shadow justice secretary.