Global Britain Commission call for new focus on infrastructure in trade policy
The Global Britain Commission has released its latest report, making key recommendations on how Global Britain can be realised if action is taken now.
Focusing on areas central to boosting UK growth including connectivity, trade, competition and talent, the latest report urges the Government to restructure and reset how they work with businesses during a recessionary period where economic opportunities need to be better understood and leveraged.
The report has a targeted focus on realising the potential export opportunities offered by the UK’s construction and infrastructure delivery: both in how we can capitalise on our world-leading infrastructure delivery record to increase exports and how our infrastructure is commissioned and built within the UK to improve connectivity and boost business growth.
The recommendations from the report would see a boost in investment in the Government’s approach to securing the UK’s place on major international programmes through better partnership working, and a new focus in infrastructure planning on the trade and global relationship benefits of national and local projects.
Outside of the infrastructure industry, Commissioners are calling for the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for International Trade to be merged, creating a standalone department focused on the energy sector and crisis.
With the newly created economic and business nerve centre, Ministers will be able to maximise investment opportunities and ensure exports are at the heart of any Global Britain. The Commission also recommends further structural changes including the establishment of a Global Britain advisory council, House of Commons Select Committee on economic growth, a secondment system between businesses and Civil Servants and the appointment of Business Advisors into every Secretary of State’s office.
The Commission warns that failure to act now will see Global Britain’s global status decline. A far cry from the expectations of ‘Global Britain’. Evidence already suggests the UK is losing its edge as a top destination for FDI in Europe, with recent analysis suggesting we are second, behind France. The UK’s ability for fast and efficient exporting is also significantly hampered at airports with UK cargo taking up to four hours vs Dubai’s 45 minute per airside transhipment.
The report highlights businesses’ access to export markets remains crucial to the UK’s competitive advantage. Whilst the UK is the 6th largest exporter globally, this success is propped up by a very small percentage of businesses. The Commission is also calling on Government to meaningfully break down exporting barriers for smaller businesses by introducing an export tax credit, based on the existing and successful R&D tax credits schemes.
With the Government’s own estimations suggesting up to 2 million businesses could be exporting but aren’t proves greater and more urgent support is needed to help turn the UK’s exporting fortunes around, shortening the length of the current economic downturn. Less than one per cent of UK businesses are large (employing over 250 people) meaning that more targeted and relevant help is needed for the 99% of SMEs who want to break onto a global stage. One critical shot in the arm for those businesses should come in the form of an export tax credit which incentivises businesses to export.
The Global Britain Commission urges the Government to introduce this urgently as the cost of living crisis and additional pressures on businesses are likely to stall or even shelve financial investments.
Commissioner Jason Millett, CEO of Consultancy at Mace said:
“With Rishi Sunak in No. 10, we now have a real opportunity to realise the benefits of a Global Britain. Throughout the pandemic, Sunak proved that he understood the importance of UK businesses and the need for a UK ecosystem that supports them to start, grow and thrive . But now they are facing a different crisis which needs further action from the Prime Minister. Government machinery needs an overhaul - a structure that has the right experts in the right places and that can talk the language of business and trade and help business deliver Global Britain.
“Today we have set out a number of recommendations and KPIs to ensure that opportunities aren’t missed and that others don’t overtake the UK’s hard-fought rankings on exports, competitiveness, and connectivity. Rishi promised a reset of Government and it needs to happen with the business community to ensure future policy is fit for purpose.”
Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox, Chair of the Commission also commented:
“What was most extraordinary in the development of the latest report is the number of businesses in the UK who could be exporting but aren’t. The problems are age old but our report offers a number of recommendations to help solve them.
“We need to consider all options – possible financial incentives, greater market intelligence and more of our network based abroad. Our competitors are much more aggressive in helping their businesses penetrate oversea’s markets. We need to be top of that league.”
Commissioner John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow said:
“The Government has a real opportunity to unlock economic growth by further supporting the UK’s thriving exporters. We can deliver on our ambitions of a Global Britain together if we make it easier for companies to access the market and remove some of the legacy procedures that make our cargo processing less competitive on a global stage.
"The Commissioners’ recommendations spell out how we can prevent others from overtaking the UK’s hard fought rankings on exports, competitiveness and connectivity, and ensure we don’t let these opportunities for growth slip away.”
The latest report will be delivered to Government and Ministers in coming weeks but the call for today is act now, before it is too late.
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