Dear Members and Friends,
This week we continued our programme of informing the membership as best as possible about the implications of the general election result. Monday saw a round table discussion between major companies, institutions and foreign policy advisors about how the UK can now best define and project its key assets in terms of global influence as we recede from an EU policy umbrella. A lot of valuable corporate input into the discussion and confirmation that ‘British’ skills and how the nation approaches markets and innovation are still closely followed around the globe. Also that the FCO has huge support across the business world but that there are concerns about its reduced role. As one contributor said, to general approval, the FCO ‘needs to get its mojo back’. Better funding, a return to something closer to its previous lead position in projecting Britain across the World and better staff retention/morale.
Which leads us seamlessly into being able to report that the FCO is more than alive and well in South Africa, as evidenced earlier today in a discussion with Nigel Casey, our High Commissioner in Pretoria. He delivered an engaging and informative presentation to over 25 members describing the incredible journey that South Africa has taken in recent years - noting the tremendous resilience and optimism which is prevalent across the country. The UK remains the number one choice of business partner and is by far the largest (36%) FDI investor in South Africa. We look forward with anticipation to Sir Kim Darroch, our Ambassador to the USA, visiting here next Friday and a discussion about what IS going on in the White House and the key US/UK relationship.
The ‘what IS going on….?’ question applies with equal measure to the UK political scene in general and the debate within and likely direction of the Conservative party in particular. We were delighted to welcome back the astute and measured commentary of Stephen Crabb, previous Secretary of State for Wales and at DWP. It was an incisive analysis of the need for and likely drivers of political stability at Westminster, of the issues around the devolved governments within the UK and another helpful input for business as it evaluates the emerging spectrum of versions of Brexit.
The week also saw the quiet announcement of the Department of International Trade’s joint initiative with the UK’s infrastructure services export sector, Infrastructure Exports: UK (IE:UK). Its purpose is to enhance HMG’s ability to locate valuable projects suited to UK expertise and then rapidly engage suitable UK supply chains with the opportunity. BEI and its members have helped DIT evolve this and BEI itself has been asked to play a key role in engaging this important UK export sector with opportunities unearthed by DIT posts around the world and selected by the IE:UK board, on which BEI also sits. HMG’s press release is here. It’s a promising initiative which we are fully behind, and will provide more information on in due course.
Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International