Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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.
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.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Speech by the Bruges Group’s Dr Carl Hunter to the Conservative Foreign & Commonwealth Council

Your Royal Highness, your Excellencies, Chairman, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. Good afternoon.

I wish to thank the Chairman and Ms Melissa Crawshay-Williams for their kind introduction and to congratulate and thank the members of our Council for their kindness, courtesy and professionalism in arranging this event.

I wish to speak of the changing relationship between Her Majesty's Government and UK Business

I will not speak much as to what we do but, in brief, we conduct science, design and manufacture equipment used in the watertight integrity monitoring of ships and marine structures – sinking being the No 1 reason for ships' loss at sea – and in the contents monitoring of complex pressurised marine gaseous extinguishing systems – fire being the No 2 reason for ships' loss at sea.

In these two specialised fields we are proud to be global leaders. We export 89% of our output to 109 countries. 40% to Asia, 10% Middle East, 15% EU, 17% USA and the balance to South America and Africa.

I define a company as the sum of the individuals within it. Successful business can be defined as a series of repetitively profitable actions.

As CEO, my aim is to create a dynamic, successful and happy environment for them in a sustainably profitable company.

We can apply these definitions to how our country can be.

A nation is the sum of its individuals.

National success is a series of prosperous, dynamic, compassionate actions – at home and overseas.

I have travelled for 30 years

sometimes to 30 or 40 countries a year. It has been a privilege.

Here today, and as I look at our Ambassadors of the Kingdom of Bahrain, of Switzerland, of Peru, of Portugal and of Albania, I think of the countries I have been to and to most of yours.

Of arriving in Bahrain as a young officer in my thick Greenjacket regimental blazer. Of it being so hot that my tailor would have cried out to see its pores grow in the heat.

Years later, Bahrain's welcoming embrace to my family on weekends away from a complex project in Saudi. I thank you Ambassador.

Of Switzerland, where I arrived at the aircraft maintenance hangar of Swiss Air with my son who was young and not as high as an aircraft tyre.

Portugal – where I journeyed for many years to support TAP Air Portugal.

Of Peru. Our first marine equipment sale. And, your Excellency, my question to you: Why only 17 Peruvian restaurants in London!

And Albania and the West Balkans Ambassador. Where clearly we have work to do to secure our first sales there yet!

Over there is Daniel, a first class Physicist, just down from Durham to join our company.

Work to do in the Balkans, Daniel!

Do not answer the question now.

Behind me in this room is a grand picture of the Duke of Wellington.

My former Regiment served well, campaigned hard on the Iberian Peninsula to save Europe.

Imagine a map of the world is in place of Wellington now.

Visualise it.

Don't answer now. I will return to it shortly.

But when you look at a map of the world.

What do you see?

The United Kingdom

Is a G5 economy, the 5th largest in the world, one of the five P5 Permanent Members of the Security Council of the UN, one of the world's five N5 nuclear powers with the strategic submarine nuclear deterrent, a lead member of the Commonwealth's 53 members, the 2nd largest military in NATO after the USA, a champion of free trade and co-founder of every institution comprising today's rules-based order.

EU Exit provides the opportunity for our country to re-balance our trading and strategic relationships internationally.

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 three concentric rings of influence: in our relations with the USA, Europe and the Commonwealth.

But the prime minister sensibly added the fourth in: the rest of the world.

We cannot possibly understand a Europe which created itself from the sadness of invasions, subjugations and forced transportations; that catholic social democratic kindness as its origins.

Our place in it is to rescue it from the sadness which we never experienced before.

The prime minister has wished Europe peace, happiness and prosperity time and again.

And we do so willingly again – here today – now.

But let us never doubt this country's brilliance.

And our brilliance will shine and illuminate Europe as it always has regardless of our relationship with the EU.

We are at a time "in thought" now as we were in 1945.

But are told that we lack "the bandwidth" to think, today, beyond EU Exit. Why?

How dare we presume to be limited by bandwidth at a time of our greatest prosperity in our 900 years of Parliament!

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 at home?

Whilst overseas, 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?

Of course we can manage this issue now!

So what of Her Majesty's Government and UK Business?

HMG is "in front of business" for the first 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

BEIS Industrial Strategy, the National Security Strategy, the National Ship Building Strategy, a 25 year Environment Strategy, the Department for Transport Maritime 2050 30 year Maritime Strategy, the Department for International Trade Export Strategy released last month….

It is a privilege for me to have modestly supported some of them across five Departments of State in the last year.

And above all, the Department for International Trade at home and with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office overseas, Her Majesty's Government is making for an equal partnership with United Kingdom business.

I wonder whether, if we had done this amount of thinking twenty years ago, might we not have added 10-15% to GDP already?

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 we as engaged political and business leaders can re-balance our own trade in line with our prime minister's Philadelphia speech.

We need the confidence

to understand that we can think, and apply that thought too,

That we must. And whilst EU Exit is significant, no-one is dying as its consequence.

Our future is bright if we have confidence.

We will be the only country with two such Special Relationships.

One with the USA, our key strategic ally and our number one national market – which we often forget.

Another with the EU – a key trading one.

The UK is the world's second largest exporter of services, its fifth largest exporter of goods and the fourth overall.

Look at the map

Do you see sea or land?

70% of the world's population lives within 100km of a coastline.

The oceans of the world are our real "superhighway" carrying 96% of all our trade.

The undersea network of cables that enable our internet of today reflect the 18th century shipping routes; the reason why the UK has the second largest concentration of data centres outside the USA and why a Global Britain must connect far more in the maritime domain than the continental.

Only five countries in the twenty seven of the EU and five in the fifty three of the Commonwealth are landlocked.

A Maritime Strategy for our Global Britain in this our maritime 21st century.

So to Government – the Department of Trade and Industry

A world class trade ministry with exporting by Her Majesty's Government's a GREAT Campaign for 25 years.

The UK Export Finance, a part of HM Treasury and the DIT now deals in transaction values as low as £10,000 and is now geared to underwriting the customer, your customers, not only us as suppliers.

I strongly commend companies and UK business leaders to meet the trade teams at our Foreign and Commonwealth Office's diplomatic posts overseas for they are very different posts today - with trade and investment alongside the diplomatic.

If they do not visit them today 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.

Her Majesty's Government can do it better than any commercial agent and arrange first meetings too.

Powerful support!

The UK

wishes to work with our most important partners to remove barriers and promote commercial freedoms across the world.

The key thinking in Her Majesty's Government is the "Prosperity-Stability-Security-Global Security" Sequence.

At the Department for International Development, extraordinary work is being done at the Business Integrity Initiative.

There you will find a commitment which builds on the work of the Right Honorable Priti Patel in the Defence-Diplomacy-Development trinity.

Linking aid to trade and security, look at the fine work of our prime minister's Trade Envoys; of our own Chairman. He is the prime minister's Trade Envoy to Pakistan; in the Foreign Office at the integration between trade and diplomacy.

But it starts with us in business, in trade, in investment as the engine room of our economy in global trade.

Working in equal partnership with Her Majesty's Government as a common national duty, a shared and national endeavour to export and succeed too.

We have arrived at a moment in our history when we look to Government to support us.

But as President Kennedy once said, might now might also be the time when we ask not what it can do for us, but what we can do for it.

Our country has produced more Nobel prizes for science than the entire nation of our key competitor, which I shall not name.

But its capital is where Simon Kuper is based. In Paris.

Let us join with Government.

Recognise the extraordinary work it is doing to support us.

And let us take this equally extraordinary opportunity Global Britain provides for national renewal.

And support it in an equal and shared partnership.

Have confidence in the brilliance, kindness and innovation of this - our United Kingdom.

Thank you.

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Tel: 020 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
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