May 20, 2018
Business

The UK must make the case for why investors should choose us over elsewhere

Last week, I was in Delhi, testing the water on how Indian business felt the Heads of Commonwealth Summit in London had gone a few weeks ago.

The answer, it seemed, was very well, and there was real enthusiasm for the quick follow up by the Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, who wasted no time in hopping on a plane to India to announce a new technology partnership with Indian and British companies working together on collaborations in areas as diverse as artificial intelligence, robotics and mobile banking.

This is all the more reassuring, as it is set against a more positive backdrop of trade between the UK and India, which grew by an impressive 15 per cent in the last year. So far, so encouraging.

Read more: Mick Jagger wades in as government promises Brexit white paper

When it comes to Indian investment into the UK, however, a slightly different, more cautious, picture emerges. Indian companies are undeniably worried about Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding it, but its also clear that the UK is just one of many attractive partners – we are operating in a very competitive market and there are other compelling players in town.

Some are European, with the Dutch and Germans in pole position, owing to their use of English as the language of business. But eyes are also turning Eastwards, as India continues its own pivot to Asia. Japan, for example, has recently overtaken the UK as the largest G20 investor in India.

This is why today's announcements on government support for inward investment matters.

Yes, we urgently need clarity on Brexit, but we also need a confident, clear elevator pitch to potential investors in the UK about why they should choose us over and above anyone else. We need an energetic and tangible explanation of what it is they can invest in and what the process looks like for making it happen.

In short, we need to prevent a situation where people look at Europe and say "France is back, and Britain's doing Brexit – its a no brainer".

We have so many natural advantages on our side which should make this easy to achieve. Our language, legal system, rule of law and time zone. Our world leading universities and many, many companies at the cutting edge of innovation and product development in their field. Not to mention our immense soft power assets, some of which will be on display this weekend at Windsor and Wembley.

So, if we combine a common-sense approach to Brexit with a confident pitch to the world, the prize is ours for the taking. Today's announcement is a great first step, and our members look forward to working with the International Trade Department to take it forward.

Read more: David Miliband is delusional if he thinks he can block Brexit

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