Dr Carl Hunter: The UK's Place in the World on EU Exit

Following a rousing speech by Secretary of State for International Trade Dr Liam Fox at Lancaster House in December, CEO, career exporter and former Greenjacket Officer Dr Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter agreed with the exceptional Minister. Dr Fox was inspiring amongst a world of despondency for our future on EU Exit.

These are Carls’ words …










We should celebrate our successes, and reflect on our experiences which have made us who we are today. As we look at exiting the EU and setting aside the matter of how each of us voted last year, let us reflect as to who we are as a country. We know we are a special place, with a special position in the world too, but we often see ourselves as a country managing decline. Or might we be one that can take this opportunity to establish who we have been, who we are now, establish what our distinguishing values are and who we may become tomorrow? I think we should. For if we do this now, we have the opportunity to place, forgive me I am a maritime man,  10 years of “clear blue water” between us and our peer nations who have no such opportunity. I happen to think we can become a beacon of hope for the rest of the world if we do this properly. But we have to do it now. If we do, then our industry will be looked at by the rest of the world to lead it in the generation of world-leading standards of fire engineering excellence too. I define a company as the sum of the individuals within it, and that one can define a nation by the same definition too in that a country is the sum of us and we generate our influence overseas by a combination of hard and soft power.


See Ourselves as Others Do

In hard power terms, we are the 5th largest economy in the world. We are the world’s 4th largest exporting nation. Sterling is one of the world’s 4 reserve currencies. We are the 2nd largest NATO nation militarily after the USA. We are one of the 5 “I” nations along with the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and within that we are one of the 2 P “priority” nations with the USA sharing the most sensitive intelligence. We are the 2nd largest economy in Europe and the 2nd largest exporting nation after Germany. We are at the heart of 52 nations in the Commonwealth. We are a P5 power at the United Nations as 1 of 5 Permanent Security Council Members and an N5 power as 1 of the 5 countries in the world with a submarine based strategic nuclear deterrent.

At sea we are 1 of only 3 Western nations with an aircraft carrier capability which, alongside our amphibious capability, strategic deterrent and our nuclear attack submarines, are the 4 defining maritime capabilities to project power, and the Royal Navy one of only 2 Western naval powers not only able to project, but to sustain naval power with the fleet of the RFA which fuel, store and replenish our combat vessels. We are the financial heart of the world and that began 400 years ago in the City of London in its financing of the wool trade and has continued through the financing of the industrial revolution and ever since. We are the 3rd largest contributor to the International Maritime Organisation with the world’s 5th largest merchant fleet in gross tonnage. The relationship which we enjoy with the USA is a most special one and we will forge another  with the European Union on EU Exit. The UK would then be the only power on earth with two such special relationships. The former is the defining relationship of our post-war world; it is the most complex and dynamic that the world has ever seen, and it endures today not only across the land, sea and air domains, but across the cyber, intelligence, security, trading, financial  and space ones too. The USA is the UK’s largest inward investor and the UK is the largest inward investor to the USA. The UK is the largest recipient of FDI in the EU. Hardly an indication of international doubt as to our decision to Exit the EU. Our largest single national export market is the USA and within the EU there are really only 5 countries which are significant exporting partners but none rival that of the USA. Our intelligence capabilities are peerless in so many areas like GCHQ, the world’s most capable intelligence-gathering institution outside the NSA in the USA and the home of some of our greatest mathematicians and physicists today. We have the 2nd largest number of diplomatic missions overseas outside the USA and today our Embassies and Commonwealth High Commissions are populated not only with our diplomats but with the highest concentration of cross-departmental civil servants from DFID, the Mod, DIT and DfT today aiming to generate trade and inward investment for us here at home. The GREAT Campaign integrates their efforts with UK business and is the single most successful cross-Departmental marketing achievement we have ever see. Our peer nations know this.

We sit at the heart of the international rules-based order. The UK is the only power in the world to be a Permanent Member of the Security Council of the United Nations and in NATO, the EU [a special relationship is possible with it on EU Exit], the Commonwealth, the G7, the G20, the Organisation for Security & Co-operation in Europe, the OECD, the World Trade Organisation, the Five Powers Defence Agreement, the Five Eyes Intelligence-sharing partnership, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We have strengthened our ties in the Middle East with the GCC and the Royal Navy established its first overseas base since WW2 in Bahrain last month. Across Asia-Pacific we are forging greater relationships with emerging powers in Indonesia, Singapore, India, Japan, Malaysia and S Korea. The UK was a the first Western nation to join the Asian Infrastructure Bank. New defence and security relationships are being forged in South America with Brazil and Mexico. This is not the mark of an inward-looking power but of one that is focusing on an EU Exit future which better balances our key relationships in it.

In soft power terms the United Kingdom is the leading nation on earth - why? In Westminster the Mother of Parliaments itself; from Ottawa to Canberra, from Dhaka to Karachi, from Kingston to Port Stanley and from Paris to Warsaw, who amongst you have not met Manchester United or Chelsea fans when you have travelled overseas? Who have you met who does not know of the BBC, Cricket or Rugby, our popular music, theatre, film stars, our Policeman, our Beefeaters at the Tower of London, our Chelsea Pensioners or our Universities?. The UK comprises 1% of the world’s population but provides 17% of its research. From Oxford to Cambridge, from UCL to Imperial, the UK and USA provide 9 out 10 of the world’s top universities and 18 of the top 100. More Nobel prizes for Science at one Cambridge College than the entire nation of France. Her Majesty, known the world over for her 60 years of Service to our Nation and her Husband Prince Philip too – a fine Naval commander who has devotedly served at her side. A country that forensically criticises itself is a nation that hungers for its betterment.

Whilst some are critical of it, the BBC reaches 1 in 16 adults across our planet broadcasting to 308m and aiming for 500m by 2022. That most under-stated Government institution, the British Council, operates in 110 countries meeting 20 m people annually and reaching 200m. 25% of all global leaders attended UK Universities. At a  more humble level, though most relevant in the midst of so many discussions about regulatory divergence or alignment, who amongst us is aware that BSI have the highest concentration of global links of any such Standards institution worldwide.

We built the world’s first computer, designed the first radar, in 1916 the world’s first sonar, Marconi himself the first radio signal, and it did not stop in our glorious past. We designed the internet itself. Look at the shipping lanes of the late 18th century and correlate those to the undersea network of cables that enable our internet of today - they are the same. And as in global finance they concentrate on the UK. And that is the reason the UK has the 2nd largest concentration of data centres outside the USA. It is the reason why we do more than any country outside the USA to eradicate global poverty. 


A Country that Understands its Past and Binds it to our Future

The reasons for our glorious past are actually the same ones that provide our glorious current; our future too. Too often we do not see what others overseas see with clarity, we should ourselves now. English is the world language. We sit in the midst of global time itself. It is why Greenwich exists and it enables us to open our day doing business in Tokyo and ending it in Alaska. English law is the one of choice for international business. For 1,000 years this country has never failed to meet our financial obligations. We abolished slavery in the 19th century and in 2010 we were the first country on earth to make the Modern Slavery Act law. But the “Rules based Order” we fear being disturbed is actually one we created 73 years ago with the USA. For the great international institutions of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were all created in London by Churchill and Roosevelt. You can see the plaque just outside Parliament Square. If those men had the vision to see the world as it would become, whilst at the same time applying their minds to the creation of our National Health Service, Unemployment Benefit and free Education, whilst all around them the world was in flames, why can we not have a confident vision for who we will be tomorrow too – a nation that values progress, true freedom and the dignity of the individual. EU Exit is seen as a great dislocation and an event of significance. And it is. But no-one is dying during it and nor will anyone when it completes. Let us come together and see it is a national difficulty. For that it is what it is. It is only that. The sun will come up and the world will spin but tomorrow must be a day and a world which we lead. We can.

But to achieve that we must seek to better understand who we have been, who we are, and who we wish to be. Understanding our distinguishing values is the foundation for that.


So what are our distinguishing values?

I give you one. It is not diversity nor tolerance for either are a consequence of other values. Nor is it “fair play” or equality under the law. Many countries have this. It is this. 900 years ago, at Magna Carta, our Country placed our Monarchy under the law. And over the span of centuries since we have developed a finely attuned sensitivity towards it. We have a soft and gentle sense of our incorruptibility before the law.

It is why we abhor a Policeman abusing his powers. It is why we have no acceptance of a Member of Parliament abusing their expenses. But let me say something more magical about us; it is because we sense that at the time of voting, when we elect our Member of Parliament, we know that what we are doing is touching the powers of our Sovereign Monarch which over that same 900 years have been delegated to those MP’s we elect to our House of Commons. That is the magic of Parliament. And it is at our cultural core. It is why we care and it is that which binds us despite our blindness of it.

But we now know that during our years in the EU 50% of Parliamentary time was spent rubber-stamping EU legislation. As we exit the EU we are going to need Parliamentarians of global quality and standing to help make use of our new opportunities and help us to better understand ourselves and to help us to define who we are today and what we could become tomorrow. For an MP must surely represent, but an MP is there to deliver their judgement on behalf of their Constituents. So that requires leadership and education. These are the 3 essential qualities which we need from our Members of Parliament.

For if we understand how Parliament developed our 2nd distinguishing value becomes clearer. Over that same 900 years, power has been delegated to it from Monarchy, but in the Crown’s name. it is the reason why our Government is Her Majesty’s and her Loyal Opposition too. But what this means is that at the moment of voting for our Member of Parliament what we are really doing is touching the powers of our Monarch which over the ages have become reposed in the House of Commons, and specifically in those of our MP’s. It is a miracle that is ours and our knowledge of it distinguishes us.

So then Parliament is at our cultural core. Our laws derive from it, and so do our freedoms.

And if Parliament is, then so too are its twin founding pillars. Our relationship with Monarchy is embedded within our relationship with it. As is our relationship with Faith. And whether we are faithful or faithless none of us in our country can disregard the historical role of it in the development of our Parliament. It lives and breathes from Prayers to Bishops, and from the essential Crown relationship with God and these are the origins for our laws themselves. And who can contend that the values in that are not ones shared and lived by those with different, little or even no faiths. A country that can do that at its Constitutional heart is a most distinguished and certainly a unique one.

England knows itself. Our earnest and constant wish to live in harmony, dignity, peace, property rights and tolerance are consequences of far greater freedoms that we look to Parliament to safeguard and for us to build our prosperous, peaceful and happy future. And if we do that we will light in ourselves a beacon of hope to the rest of the world itself..


So what of today ?

In 2016 the UK increased our inward investment to it by nearly 14% - the largest inflow it has ever been in our history. That is hardly the mark of a country in decline or of a country doubted by its overseas friends of its future outside the EU either. Last week I met the Secretary of State for the Department of International Trade. Dr Fox spoke of the incredible pipelines of opportunity being created for our exporting countries. We are creating a world class and world leading trade ministry in DIT. It is happening. But is UK business ready too ?

The UK has 7,000 larger companies employing over 250 people and constituting 46% of our private sector workforce and generating 54% of all private sector revenues; and the FIA are populated with some of them. But in the UK and the vast majority of the FIA membership are SME’s and in the UK we have 1.4m SME’s employing 2-249 people and generating 54% of all private sector employment and 46% of all private sector revenue. But only 11% of any of our companies export at all.

As Dr Fox said in his speech, we have a voracious appetite for consumption and this will grow as we age in our society. To pay for that we have choices. We can borrow more or generate funds to pay for it. If we are the 4th largest exporting nation today based on only 11% of our companies imagine if we inverted the 11% who export now to 89% tomorrow. To do that we need to re-generate that spirit of adventure, cultural understanding and world-leading products and services that we always have. Last year 54,000 new technology companies were created in the UK and did just that – the highest number on earth. So we are already doing it.

As Boris Johnson says we export cheese to France and boomerangs to Australia. We also export Jeremy Clarkson to the Amazon itself. Most Hollywood movies are finished in Soho. UK Export Finance at HM Treasury now guarantees your bank in export transaction values as low as GBP 10,000. 25 years ago it was GBP 1m and configured for Rolls Royce and BAE. The Exporting is GREAT Campaign is the most successful cross-departmental marketing achievement seen in my lifetime. The Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry was created by BEIS and enables SME’s to confront the highest point of failure in product R&D. 70% of all UK products fail at the advanced prototyping stage. The MTC enables SME’s to take their final designs where some of their 100 production engineers and 200 PhD’s will assess it, tell you how to improve it and give you 3 sources of UK production where it can be made cheaper. A typical reports takes 5 working days. And it is available for you at GBP 500 per day. DIT are opening more exporting opportunities for this country than I have ever seen. But how many of us have even looked at their website?

Churchill once said that our place in the world depended on our relationships with 3 concentric circles of influence in the USA, Europe and the Commonwealth. But there is a 4th and the PM generated it in her Philadelphia speech in January – the Rest of the World. 90% of all world growth will occur outside the EU in the next 30 years. We are at the heart of 52 nations in the Commonwealth which contain many of them and with trading, diplomatic, military and financial links with most of the rest. From Japan to China, from India to Brazil, from Mexico to South Korea you will find British historical and current links. So let us use them. For the first time HMG and Industry are working together. We now have an Industrial Strategy – published last week - that peers into our future and it is a bright one for UK business.


Who we will be

As I look to that future I see a United Kingdom as the largest economy in Europe by 2050. I see the current G7 broadly in world economic order terms as they are today but interspersed with the E7 Emerging economies of tomorrow. They include China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and Turkey. France will fall and equal to Turkey. But the UK will be the 2nd or 3rd largest over Japan. Not my figures but those of PWC itself. Why would that be if our glorious past was not to be exceeded by our glorious future? And it will be a gentler one. And we will be a beacon for the world in our Constitutional Monarchy, by our Parliamentary Democracy, through our law and our incorruptibility to it, and by our scientific, financial, innovative and engineering excellence.

By our gentleness in peace and by our vigour in crisis. By our earnest wish to be as one with each other.

But above all by our sure footed certainty that we are the greatest nation on earth. There is a British Dream - Let us enjoy this time. Let us wake from our slumbers and see in ourselves what the rest of the world is seeing already.


Dr Carl Hunter is CEO of Coltraco Ultrasonics Limited