When we left the EU at the end of January, some people were worried that Britain might become commercially isolated. After 48 years of membership, the EU had become our largest trading partner by some margin and our departure was always going to leave a big hole. The outlook was not helped by the fact that our former partners had made it perfectly clear throughout the Brexit negotiations that they were not likely to be so friendly in the future. The subsequent spat over the vaccine roll-out has certainly confirmed that.
But it looks like we need not have worried. The UK’s International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, had managed to secure 93% (in value terms) of our trade with non-EU countries by the end of 2020. She agreed 14 trade deals last year alone and has since gone on to seal lucrative new arrangements with Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland. And although it is still very early days, Brexit is impacting some businesses harder than others, and we have yet to sign an agreement with the US under new President Biden – the value of the Government’s own list of trade agreements that took effect from 1st January this year still adds up to over £145bn.
Closer to home, Nissan, which has been forced to close some of its factories in other parts of the world, has committed to investing huge sums in its Sunderland plant, both to produce an updated version of its best-selling Qashqai SUV and to expand battery production for its popular EVs. Great news for the North East, especially after the big regional investment programme outlined in the Budget.
Only last week, the BBC reported that the Abu Dhabi investment fund, anxious to reduce its exposure to the oil and gas sector, has agreed to pay £800m into UK life sciences and is set to follow this up with further investments of up to £5bn in British health, tech, green energy, and infrastructure.
Minister for Investment, Gerry Grimstone, told the FT that the money would be “deployed alongside the UK’s £200m Life Sciences Investment Programme” and that the partnership will enable the UK life sciences sector “to develop cutting-edge technologies and research while retaining homegrown innovation and jobs.”
UnitBirwelco’s recent agreement to partner with Jericho Energy Ventures to provide engineering support, procurement, manufacturing, and fabrication for its Hydrogen boiler (cleanH2steam DCCTM) – is a significant part of that process.
All good news which sends a clear message that Britain is very much open for business. Bring it on.