On 7 May, Britain went to the polls, took the pollsters completely by surprise and decisively elected a majority Conservative Government. Many of the members of the Government remain the same: Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. We have a new Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, who was previously Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Here’s a full list of the new government.
British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and British Consul General Priya Guha discussed the post-election landscape with Seattle’s business leaders when they visited here on 21 and 22 May. They underlined that two of the British Government’s top priorities will be to continue to rebalance Britain’s growing economy across the UK, and to reform the European Union and Britain’s relationship with it.
Britain is open for business. That was also the message in EY's annual FDI attractiveness survey on 27 May, confirming that the UK not only remains the top destination in Europe for foreign direct investment (FDI), but is now the fourth most attractive destination in the world. UK FDI projects were up 11% over 2013, the UK has captured 35% of all EU headquarters and even overtaken Germany for FDI manufacturing projects. To give one exciting example, Seattle’s supercomputer company Cray Inc, announced on 2 June the establishment of its EMEA HQ in Bristol, south west England. This new HQ will serve as a regional base for sales, service, training and operations, and be an important development site for Cray’s global research and development initiatives. We’re delighted that Cray has chosen the UK. CEO Peter Ungaro described Bristol as “a technology hub” with high-tech companies and a skilled workforce, and “a platform for continued growth” for Cray. UK Minister Ed Vaizey highlighted that Cray’s choice of Bristol as one of its global hubs sent a “very clear message to international organisations about innovation and excellence in the UK technology sector and the benefits of using the support available from UKTI.”
My UKTI colleagues have continued to be here in force. Regional Director Dan Rutstein took part in the BABC PNW/Seattle Saracens NFL/Rugby dinner on 8 May, to explain why Sport is GREAT. It was GREAT timing too – we’re just over 100 days away from the Rugby World Cup, the third largest sports competition in the world, when England and Wales will be hosting over 400,000 visitors.
UKTI San Francisco’s Jaclyn Mason and Sarah Cole have been talking to the Seattle tech community. UKTI Los Angeles’ David Pasquini and Harrison Shapira have been engaging with the aerospace and life
sciences sectors too. And I’ve been hosting defence officials. Lewis Hedge, the head of the British Embassy’s Defence Trade Team, travelled out from Washington DC to be a panel speaker at the Pacific Northwest Defence Coalition’s defence symposium at Joint Base Lewis McChord on 28 May, explaining how to do defence business in the UK. Here are the three things I learnt from him:
- The UK defence industry has an annual turnover of £22 billion.
- The defence industry is about more than just things that go bang: cyber, ICT, textiles, composites, advanced manufacturing and Formula 1 technologies all have potential defence applications, and they’re all things that the UK excels in.
- The UK-US Defence Trade Co-operation Treaty provides an ITAR exception for the UK.
So, a busy first post-election month. And more to come, like a celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta at Olympia’s Temple of Justice on 15 June, and the UK Chancellor’s budget on 8 July.