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Paul Johnston

Ambassador to Ireland

Part of UK in Sweden

26th March 2014

Doing business in the left lane means doing business in the fast lane

The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in the UK hosted an excellent event in Stockholm this week for Swedish companies thinking of investing in the UK.

We had inspirational talks from the MDs of Izettle and Envac, two of the many innovative Swedish companies doing great business in Great Britain.

I was delighted to have the chance to set out why the UK is a great place to invest. Here are twelve top reasons!

1.     You’ll be in good company: the UK has repeatedly topped Ernst & Young’s European Attractiveness Survey which points to UK as the ‘location of choice for headquarters and research and development projects’.

2.     The rest of the world can’t be wrong: while the global FDI flows decreased by 18% between 2011/2012 – the share of UK global FDI flows increased by over 20% over the same period. In 2012, 18.4% of all FDI in Europe went into the UK.

3.     You’ll be top of the European Champions’ League: the UK continues to be the number one location for European Headquarters (EHQ): 469 EHQs, far ahead of Germany (86), Switzerland (80), Netherlands (78) and France (77).

4.     You’ll be at the heart of global creativity and innovation. According to the OECD, the UK has the least number of barriers to entrepreneurship in the world. We have the strongest research base in Europe, we offer a world-class creative talent pool with expertise across a range of professional services; and the World Bank says we have one of the most flexible labour markets in the Europe.

5.     You’ll be at a unique gateway of international connections. We are the number one gateway to Europe, giving easy access to the EU, the world’s largest single market with its population of nearly 500 million. And the accepted language of international business, science and technology is English.

6.     You’ll discover it’s not just about London: Scotland is a great financial hub, with financial services employing almost 100.000 people in Scotland directly, and another 100.000 indirectly. £800bn worth of funds is managed from Scotland. Manchester has become a booming center for the creative and digital industries, as well as broadcast media. Cambridge is of course the UK center for biotech and life sciences, employing nearly 53.000 people, and the area has one of the highest concentrations of Noble prize laureates in the world.

7.     You’ll discover it’s not just about cities: the shores of the UK themselves offer extraordinary opportunities. From Vattenfall’s enormous investment projects in Scotland and Wales, to small technology developers within wave and tidal power on the shores of Cornwall and Northern Ireland. Companies, including many from Sweden, are developing new technologies for harnessing marine energy, vital for securing the supply of clean energy for the UK as well as other countries.

8.     You’ll see that while Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers we’re also a nation of shoppers. The retail industry is the UK’s largest private sector employer. Many of Sweden’s leading retailers, such as H&M and IKEA are household names in the UK – and there’s a market in the UK for others as well. The UK e-commerce market is the largest in Europe, and second largest in the world after the USA. This creates opportunities not only for retailers, but for technology companies, such as Sweden’s TicTail, Virtusize and indeed Izettle.

9.     You’ll benefit from a low tax burden: the UK’s corporate tax rate is the lowest in the G7 at 24 per cent in 2012. We will further lower the rate to 21 per cent as of April 2014, with the aim of giving the UK the most competitive business tax regime in the G20.

10.    You’ll see why we’re also an Innovation nation: the UK has generous tax allowances such as the Patent Box and R&D tax credits of 30% for large corporations and up to 125% for SMEs. Our Annual Investment Allowance has rocketed from £25000 to £250.000, to encourage capital investment so businesses can purchase new equipment or invest in new facilities in a more tax efficient way.

11.     You’ll be joining  a global talent hub: The UK has the second-largest labour force in the EU, at over 30m. We’re home to three of the top five universities in the world (QS World University Rankings). With the highest number of leading MBA courses in Europe.

12.     We’ll do all we can to make it easy for you: the UK is the number-one major economy in the EU for ease of doing business, according to the World Bank. Setting up in the UK takes an average of 13 days, compared to a European average of 32, and it takes as little as 24 hours to register a company.

So it’s not just doing Business in the Left Lane. It’s Doing Business in the Fast Lane –great opportunities for Swedish companies in the UK.

About Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially. He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide…

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially.

He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide range of political and security roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Paul joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1993 as Desk Officer for Bosnia. As part of this role he was also Private Secretary to EU negotiator Lord Owen and his representative on Bosnia Contact Group.

His first foreign posting was to Paris in 1995-99 as Second Secretary Political. He was Private Secretary to the Ambassador and latterly part of the UK delegation to the Kosovo Rambouillet negotiations. Then he returned to London as Head of the Kosovo Policy Team, leading work on post-conflict policy in the EU, NATO, UN and G8.

Before his second overseas posting to New York in 2005, Paul held a variety of other EU policy and security appointments in London, such as Head of European Defence Section between 2000-01 and Head of Security Policy Department between 2002-04.

As Head of the Political Section in UKMIS New York, he advised on major policy issues for the UK on the Security Council and the UN World Summit, including the UK EU Presidency in 2005.

Paul returned to London in 2008 as Director, International Security for the FCO. He was responsible for policy on UN, NATO, European Security, arms control and disarmament, human rights and good governance.

Paul was British Ambassador to Sweden from August 2011 to August 2015 and then was Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO.

He was UK Ambassador to the EU for Political and Security affairs from 2017 to January 2020 and became Ambassador to Ireland in September 2020.