30 July, 2020 - 13:23 By Tony Quested

Science and tech companies must max their own talent to thrive in new trading climate

The UK would like to apologise if it has failed to wreck relationships with any of the world’s leading trade powers. Oversights can happen.

Now estranged from the EU with potentially disastrous consequences – only 26 member countries so a mere bagatelle; China offended potentially to the point of no return (who needs their billions and job creating technology?); and relations with a probable new US President sabotaged through an inability to stand up to the bullying present incumbent.

Not much damage done there then! The EU, taken as a whole is the UK’s largest trading partner with two-way trade worth £672 billion. In 2019, UK exports to the EU were £300bn (43 per cent of all UK exports). UK imports from the EU were £372bn (51 per cent of all UK imports).

In 2019: UK exports to China were worth £30.7bn; imports from China were £49bn. In 2019, non-real estate related foreign direct investment from China into the UK reached an estimated $8.3bn, compared to $6.1bn for the whole of 2018, according to Deloitte.

Two-way trade between the UK and US was around $261.9bn at the last count. How will a new President react to Britain’s apparent slavish adherence to every demand Trump makes on PM Boris Johnson – not least the crazy decision to dump Huawei from the 5G implementation on this lovely little island of ours?

So looking at UK trade with the EU, China and US alone that totals £1.014 trillion’ – not to be toyed with or risked one might be inclined to believe.

So. Hearty congratulations should be extended at this time to all those British voters who returned the Conservatives to power with a huge majority in the General Election. 

You gave them a mandate and almost certainly did not consider that you might suffer such a backlash. But almighty backlash there will almost certainly be.

We are told that wealthy Brits, chiefly business executives, will bear the brunt of an anticipated tax tsunami as the Government bids to claw back the scattergun and non-strategic outlay on an appallingly incompetent response to countering COVID-19 and salvaging some remnants of an economy.

Despite having to contend with the fallout from what is either a corrupt or incredibly incompetent UK government – depending on your point of view – companies are facing the trickiest trade climate one can remember in recent times. 

They will almost certainly have to go it alone and hope the Government does not place too many impediments in the way of hiring global talent.

If your drugs or technology are genuinely bleeding edge and your proposition is world-class then you have a fighting chance of winning the custom and investment you will need to convert potential to the bottom line. 

As we have seen with a recent spurt of acquisitions and investments, the very best Cambridge science and technology still commands respect internationally. So we might be best advised to revive the words of the late and indomitable business troubleshooter Sir John Harvey-Jones who counselled that in times of trouble and turbulence you polish your shoes, put on your smartest attire and smile, smile, smile. 

In a country that is now a laughing stock in so many regards no-one will suspect your smile masks idiocy – and you never know, some might even interpret your countenance as a bona fide reflection of confidence.

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