The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP is former Defence and International Trade Secretary. He was the UK’s Nominee to be Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2020
When the Global Britain Commission was launched last October, its purpose was clear. Utilising the expertise of British business leaders, the Commission was designed to offer a dialogue between business and government about how a truly Global Britain can be achieved, supporting growth and providing the high value jobs on which our prosperity is dependent as a result.
Such a purpose encompasses working with the Government to define, shape, and make a reality of Global Britain, drawing on the experience, reach and expertise of the businesses involved to do so and thereby support the Government in creating a blueprint for making the most of global economic opportunities. After all, government does not create jobs or prosperity but can set the framework in which businesses can do so.
Fast-forward four months and, with the Commission releasing its first of three reports today, initial steps have been taken to achieve these aims. The report, focusing on what Global Britain means to business and what businesses understand by the idea, also reaffirms why this policy is so fundamental to the future of the UK, both on a domestic and global level.
Post-Brexit, there is a new trading reality, and British and global businesses can grasp these new opportunities to penetrate new markets to the benefit of the economy, business and workers. However, our future trading relationships, now that we have left the EU, will only succeed if business and the Government work together to deliver for British interests around the world. As the UK also recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, now is therefore the time to focus on our strengths and comparative advantages to ensure maximum returns for the UK in the future.
Moreover, there is space for British business to innovate and lead the world in particular industries. For example, with the Government viewing its business goals and its target of Net Zero by 2050 as intertwined, British businesses can be at the forefront of a Green Industrial Revolution, exporting its products globally and leading other countries in the battle against climate change (just as we did at COP26). Tom Samson, CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR, reaffirms this point in the report when he states that “the global decarbonisation challenge presents an unprecedented opportunity for the UK to bring leading new clean energy technologies to the world stage.”
The Global Britain policy is also vitally important because of the increased amount of debt caused by the pandemic, coupled with the recent rise in inflation. With costs rising faster than wages, inflation always hits the poorest in society the hardest. Naturally, one key way to combat this is to create more secure and better paid jobs, something that will be done through penetrating new and emerging markets for the export of British products. A key focus of the Commission – increasing British exports – will see tax receipts rise and debt decrease, ensuring we do not pass on this mounting problem to future generations.
Furthermore, the fact that global trade was shrinking before the pandemic should raise alarm bells; protectionism, especially among the wealthiest countries, does no favours for anyone. Thus, it must be tackled with a healthy dose of British free trade enthusiasm and the willingness to work with like-minded partners. If we are to enable developing countries to trade their way out of poverty, open markets with appropriate investment strategies by government and business will again be crucial.
The Government therefore needs the very best advice from leaders in British industry which, in turn, will combine their unrivalled knowledge of the UK and global business to establish how best to harness and deliver a more resilient economy that creates jobs and levels up Britain. In the most part, this will involve turbocharging British exports, with the Global Britain Commission focused on how we as a country can maximise the exports of the products and services that we excel in, how we turn the UK’s ability to make products into selling and making money for the UK, and how we put political might behind British business and products to champion both at home and abroad.
To businesses, Global Britain means all these points and more. Fundamentally, it is about openness, international connectivity, encouraging greater investment into the UK, promoting innovation, productivity and skills, and creating opportunity equally throughout the nation.
Were all this to be achieved, the benefits to Britain would be clear. Raising per capita exports of goods and services to the level of Germany, for example, would generate an additional £474 billion of UK exports annually. This £474 billion export boost could then create up to 5.5 million export-supporting jobs, of which are seven per cent higher paying than the UK average.
Backed by business leaders and this data, the Global Britain policy therefore represents a real opportunity to do things better, more efficiently, more strategically, and to tailor our economy to our strengths as a nation as well as ensuring that we create prosperity across the UK, especially for those who need it most.
Working with the Government, the right focus on a truly global Britain can thus reap huge economic benefits for everyone in the UK.
You can read the full report on the Global Britain Commission website here.