The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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India - a 400 Year Business and Strategic Relationship


I wish to write of India and of the opportunity between the UK and India, the changing relationship between HMG and UK Business that will enable it and of changing strategies within HMG that will advantage the UK in its trading and strategic relationship with India on EU Exit.

A company can be defined as the sum of the individuals within it. My aim as an owner is to create a dynamic, successful and happy environment for the company team and create a sustainably profitable company. We export 89% of our output to 108 countries – 40% to Asia, 10% to the Middle East, 15% the EU, 17% to the USA and the balance to South America and Africa. I have travelled 3-4 months a year for 30 years to 30 to 40 countries a year exporting. It has been a privilege. But of so many countries I think of I always remember India. The sounds of India. The best and the worst of the human condition found there. But it is the colour of India I remember. And it illuminates England's 400 year relationship with it.

The United Kingdom is a G5 economy, a P5 member of the Security Council of the UN, a N5 Nuclear power, at the heart of the Commonwealth's 53 member states, the 2ndlargest military in NATO and a global champion of free trade which has lifted 1bn people out of poverty in the last 30 years and which we can articulate even more strongly when we resume our seat at the WTO on EU Exit. EU Exit provides the opportunity for our country to re-balance our Trading & Strategic relationships internationally. And our relationship with India is a strategic one with great potential for both our countries.

The Prime Minister's 2017 Philadelphia Speech outlined the UK's place in the world. Churchill said our place in it was maintained by our relationships with the 3 concentric rings of influence in our relations with the USA, Europe and the Commonwealth. But the PM sensibly added the 4th in The Rest of the World. India is, and always has been, part of how we look at the world across all 4 of these.

So what of HMG and UK Business ? HMG is actually "in front of business" for the 1st time in 25 years. More strategic thinking is being done by HMG now than in the last 20 years. EU Exit is providing a focal point for new thought in our country. BEIS recently launched its 254 page Industrial Strategy, the National Security Council its National Security Strategy, the National Ship Building Strategy brings maritime back into our national consciousness and reminding us of our essential maritime role, a 25 year Environmental Strategy was released last month and work has commenced at DfT in Maritime 2050, a 30 year maritime strategy for the UK, and at DIT, an Export Strategy will soon be released. So despite the perceived "bandwidth" limitations much "thought" is being done.

DIT is becoming a world class trade ministry. The GREAT campaign is the most successful cross-Departmental HMG marketing achievement seen in 25 years. UK Export Finance within HM Treasury now underwrites UK business transaction values down to £10,000 and is now geared to underwriting the customer overseas not only us at home as the suppliers.

I strongly commend companies to meet the trade teams at our Diplomatic Posts overseas. For they are very different Posts today - with Trade and Investment professionals working alongside their Diplomatic counterparts. If exporters do not visit them today then they are not "travelling well". Posts overseas can deliver to UK Business information which they too quickly appoint agents for. Mapping out for instance the key contacts in State Owned Enterprises which are often 50% of our target customers in developing markets. HMG can do it better than any commercial agent. Arrange first meetings too. Powerful support.

Above all DIT at home and the FCO overseas are working together to create new, dynamic Diplomatic Posts overseas alive to the opportunities a Global Britain presents to the country. HMG is making for an equal partnership with UK business and I wonder if we had done this amount of thinking 20 years ago – might we not have added 10-15% to our GDP already ? But we can now. Doing the "strategic thinking" now means the UK will be years ahead of our peer competitor nations. It is what DIT is doing. So let us think now – and look at how UK business can re-balance our own trade in line with our PM's Philadelphia Speech.

We are at a time "in thought" now - as we were in 1945. But we are told that we lack "the bandwidth" to think today beyond EU Exit. Why ? How in 1945, exhausted by war - and at a time of genuine austerity - did we create the welfare state, the NHS , equality for women under law, whilst creating - with the USA - the Rules Based Order in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the Commonwealth and NATO itself ? And at a time of rationing and when bread itself was rationed too ? How dare we presume we cannot think beyond our immediate concerns today. We have never been more prosperous, educated or fortunate and have an obligation to make the fullest use of the opportunity that EU Exit enables our country today.

We need the confidence to understand that we can think and apply that thought too, that we must and that whilst EU Exit is significant no-one is dying as its consequence. Our future is bright if we do. We will be the only country with two such Special Relationships. One with the USA - our key strategic ally and our No 1 national market – which we often forget. Another with the EU – a key trading one. India and the UK though are 400 year old strategic partners. When you look at a map of the world do you see sea or land ? For 70% of the world's population live within 100km of a coastline. The Indian Ocean is a strategic one and the Indian Navy is becoming a 200-300 ship fleet. India thus the gateway to Asia where so much of the world's economic growth occurs and India a strategic player in the global maritime domain too.

The key thinking in HMG is the "Prosperity-Stability-Security-Global Security" Sequence. It starts with UK business. In Trade. In Investment. Working in an equal partnership with HMG in a common national duty and a shared national endeavour to export and succeed. The UK wishes to work with our most important partners to remove barriers and promote commercial freedoms across the world.

There exists tremendous opportunity for India and the UK to work together - to strengthen our partnership - and rise to meet the challenges of the future. India and the UK are, in PM Modi's words, an "unbeatable combination". Our shared values, shared language and shared interest in each other's prosperity, as the leading and fellow members of the Commonwealth of 53 nations who we are builds upon our unique 400 year old strong family ties with India and encompassing trade, defence and culture. Bilateral trade between our 2 countries were £15.4 billion in 2016.Trade grew 15% in the first 3 quarters of 2017 compared to 2016. Our commercial links span a wide variety of sectors, from medical technology, pharmaceuticals, to food and drink, energy, defence, IT and culture. Our trade in services includes not only IT and professional services but financial services too, with the City of London playing a key role in raising capital to support India's infrastructure growth. 80% of masala bond issuances have taken place in London – valued at $3.9 billion.

The UK is the largest G20 investor in India over the last 10 years - more than any other EU country. Over 400 British companies based in India employ over 800,000 Indians. UK companies create 1 in 20 jobs in India's private sector. They include Vodafone, BP, HSBC, Standard Chartered, G4 and Unilever. India is improving in terms of ease of doing business too – leading to a 30 point jump in the World Bank's Index last year. The UK is proud of its partnership with India on the ease of doing business and warmly encourages continuing progress. India is also the source of significant investment and jobs in the UK. In 2016, 800 Indian companies based in the UK generated 110,000 British jobs and revenues of £47.5 billion. India safeguards more UK jobs than any other country. Tata, owners of TCS and Jaguar Land Rover are at the helm.

We should not doubt the unshakeable strength of the UK G5 economy. The UK boasts some 58,000 technology firms. In the last year, more venture capital was invested in London than in Germany, France, Spain and Ireland combined. So what of us and the Indian Navy ?

Firstly understand the strategic opportunity between the Royal Navy and the Indian Navy. Secondly understand the interest in the UK in India. Read the newspapers 2 months before you travel to understand it. Believe in India. You will find all life there. Thirdly be "better – faster – cheaper" than any competitor. That is who we are in my company – "better – faster – cheaper". We do the science, we respond to design requests, we set out a plan for future modifications - we are there with the customer – through-lfe - in service – with UK values. It is true to say that India suffers from 3 key concerns. Infrastructure, Bureaucracy and Corruption. We can manage both of the the former – but must not succumb to the latter. For if we do our reputational integrity will be damaged – and in turn will damage that of Global Britain's too. It is a key part of DFID's Business Integrity Initiative. Just at the time on EU Exit when we and a complex world have never needed our integrity more – and to understand & contribute to it our distinguishing UK values – more today than ever.

British companies can flourish in India and I offer 3 key pieces of advice to them:

1. Delight in the UK-India family history – learn about Partition before you travel – you will be asked – but know that all family wounds can be healed with will and faith

2. Remember to make clear your integrity - and make clear too the integrity of your global leading and your brilliant offerings

3. Have confidence that in India "where there is a will there is a way" – but make sure it's the right way

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Thursday, 21 June 2018

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