James Brokenshire is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup.
To secure a future filled with prosperity and maintain our place at the world’s top table after Brexit, we need all parts of our country working to their full potential. This rings true for private bodies as much as it does for public ones.
The historic ties we hold around the globe are going to be important as we take control of our own trade agreements, but they make sound business sense too. Our country’s future is dependent not just upon how we continue to trade with the European Union, but how we forge new relationships with the non-EU countries, which account for over £342 billion of our exports.
The strong links we have with nations across the globe was reinforced for me at the Conservative Party conference last week. Speaking at Conservative Friends of India, Pakistan and Israel events should be a strong reminder of the internationalism in our party’s DNA. We’re at our best when we look outwards, embracing new ideas and sharing the best we have to offer with the rest of the world.
That’s why I’ve just returned from a trade visit to India together with Andy Street and Sir John Peace, Chair of the Midlands Engine Partnership. In my role as Midlands Engine Champion, I brought together senior British and Indian officials and businesses on this trip to reaffirm our commitment to the UK’s, and in particular the Midlands’, trading relationship with India.
Last year, our trade in goods and services between the UK and India hit £19.6 billion – an increase of 20 per cent on the year before. I want to see the Midlands and other regions enjoying the benefit of that trading relationship with India and with our trading partners around the globe. And it’s not just goods and services – the expertise we stand to gain from fostering close partnerships between international regions can’t be underestimated.
Andy is delivering for the people of the West Midlands but, with the support of Conservative colleagues in Government, I know we can do more.
For example, the Midlands-Maharashtra Technology Partnership is the regional product of the UK-India Technology Partnership signed by Theresa and Narendra Modi in April to increase partnerships in technology through industry, government, science and research, and to foster trade and investment opportunities in both directions.
Technology is big business in India. Around 31 per cent of all Indian investments in the UK are in tech and incorporate 33,000 out of 110,000 jobs. Latest figures show that the UK exports around £344 million of digital services to India, and that continues to grow.
During the visit, there were many positive conversations – making the case to Indian organisations to join the likes of Bharat Forge and 780,000 businesses already established in the Midlands. Our future economic prosperity depends on looking beyond London and the South East. The Midlands is the heart of our automotive industry, with a skilled workforce driving further innovation. It’s the engine room of UK economic growth, and can lead the way as we chart a positive new future for our country outside the EU.
I also launched the UK-India FutureTech Festival, taking place in Delhi and across India this December. The festival is an exciting thought-leadership summit that will bring together business, policy makers, venture capital, scientists and entrepreneurs.
Attracting the best and brightest business leaders, innovators, tech companies and entrepreneurs, the FutureTech Festival will drive trade, investment and partnerships across key sectors, and promote and celebrate the UK and India as major technology innovators and trading partners.
As we leave the European Union, these relationships, at a sub-national level, will become increasingly important. My meeting with Anant Geete, India’s Heavy Industries and Public Enterprise Minister, highlighted the need to deepen the links between the Midlands Engine and Maharashtra. We both want to see our countries’ automotive industries push the boundaries in new technology, especially in electric and low emission vehicles. That’s why we need to strengthen collaboration between the two regions and our nations to ensure that our automotive industries have the tools and resources they need to compete in a globally competitive economy.
Our local authorities and leaders will be instrumental in taking forward and maintaining relationships with overseas trading partners, as much as any of the dealmakers in Westminster. We recognise the value of these relationships. I call on all local authority leaders to rise to this challenge. As the best advocates for their regions, standing side by side with Ministers in Westminster will be crucial if we are to help secure valuable new trade relationships.
We’re determined to back our businesses, and showcase to the world just how great Britain and our regions are as a place to invest. We must do that together. Only the Conservatives are offering an optimistic vision of our nation’s future – and I firmly believe we have an opportunity to shine, and to show the world that, with our new future status, they will continue to benefit from all the UK has to offer – including from our great regions.