Dear Members & Friends,

Taken during my 3 week ‘Brexit escape strategy’ in Antarctica; a suitable metaphor, I thought, for public boredom with the ‘B’ word.

Business must go on and amidst the uncertainty I’m glad to see Strategy and its members producing highly informative events. It was a very busy week.


BEI’s Middle-East Access Group (MEAG) hosted Khaled Al Khulifah, First Secretary – Head of the Political Section at the London Embassy of Kuwait, on Tuesday. Anglo-Kuwaiti relations have been strong for many years and 2019 marks the 120th anniversary of the first treaty signed between the two countries. This treaty, kept secret at the time, was enormously significant for both countries and, according to records, was the first formal engagement ever executed between a ruler of Kuwait and the government of any country. The First Secretary brought things up to date with an overview of the strategy for New Kuwait 2035 and commented on a number of areas for collaboration and opportunity during a Q&A session.


Cardiff University’s Dr Pete Burnap addressed key themes in the UK’s cyber-projection strategy and the important role of 17 UK universities in general, and Cardiff in particular, in combining to give the nation a high degree of protection. The main takeaways, other than Cardiff clearly being a highly relevant leader in the sector and a useful touchpoint for the membership, were a need for the constant challenges posed by cyber (and AI), not just in companies but also within their supply chains, to be represented at Excom and main board level.


Wednesday also saw a packed launch of an exhibition of outstanding art art mainly from Central Asia. Business people and diplomats from across the region attended. BEI’s Central Asian unit combined with D Contemporary and the Britain-Kazakh Society to deliver an evening with real buzz. This followed on from a similar event for Belarus. Showcasing cultural offerings from many of the emerging countries that we deal with will be a growing part of D-Contemporary’s calendar of exhibitions.


The retiring Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Gordon Messenger, discussed the outlook for the UK’s Armed Forces with some 20 business leaders and defence specialists. Alongside an impressive reminder of why, despite a frequent press depiction of a degraded UK defence presence, the UK with its entrenched Transatlantic relationship remains second only to the US in terms of Western defence capability, there were a number of key points for business. The main was a growing commitment to cross-cutting (across the three services) functional authorities to iron out duplications, maximise cost efficiencies and value for the taxpayer.

On Thursday morning BEI, hosted a round table discussion with a visiting team from the World Bank on Enhanced Remedies against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), a very productive and insightful engagement which brought to light some of the innovative thinking around the whole safeguarding agenda, a topic high on the DFID’s priorities. Policy and management mechanisms for GBV and other safeguarding related issues will need broad engagement with many actors, here there is an opportunity for greater collaboration to ensure global standards are established and effectively implanted.

The afternoon brought an honest and candid discussion on DFID’s “No Deal Preparations”, very welcome by BEI members who joined the meeting with Chris Carter, DFID’s Deputy Head of the EU Department. DFID reiterated their commitment to ensure that their ability to deliver essential business in a “value for money and impactful way” is maintained. There are still a lot of uncertainties for suppliers, with financial and operational risks to be managed and mitigated, but the engagement provided some useful insights and information.

The next few weeks sees a very active calendar. It is set out below.

This week also saw the publication of the second edition of our international magazine and podcast, Perspectives.

I wish you all a relaxing weekend.



Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International

Event highlights:

Wednesday 13th March – The D Group
Lunch with Charles Gibbons
Charles Gibbons, Chief IT Architect & Head of Engineering, The Francis Crick Institute

Thursday 14th March – D Group Lunch
Lunch with the Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport
The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport

Tuesday 19th March – BEI Meeting
ICAI’s Future Work Plan – a Consultation
Tamsyn Barton, ICAI Chief Commissioner

Tuesday 19th March – BEI Meeting
Uzbekistan: Meeting Senior Government Delegation
Laziz Kudratov, Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade

Tuesday 19th March – The D Group
Dinner with Barry White, CEO, Transport for the North
Barry White, CEO, Transport for the North

Wednesday 20th March – The D Group
What is AI actually being used for today? – A discussion on real case studies
Adrian Gregory, CEO UK & Ireland, Atos

Thursday 21st March – Strategy International
Networking Reception: Celebrating Nauryz
Strategy International & D-Contemporary – Drinks Reception

Monday 25th March – British Expertise
Turkmenistan: Briefing with British Embassy ahead of TUKTIC

Tuesday 26th March – The D Group
UK-Turkey Relations
H.E Ümit Yalçınn Turkish Ambassador, Embassy of Turkey, London

Tuesday 26th March – BFPG
Sheffield City Region: International Perspectives & Ambitions Post-Brexit
British Foreign Policy Group

Wednesday 27th March – The D Group
Immigration is an economic necessity and we urgently need honest political leadership
James Kirkup, Director, The Social Market Foundation

Wednesday 17th April 2019 – BEI Awards
British Expertise International Awards 2019