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Philip Parham

UK Commonwealth Envoy, former British Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates

Part of Speakers' Corner

9th August 2016 London, UK

Britain’s global appeal remains unhindered

On 23 June, the British people voted to leave the European Union (EU). The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been clear that Brexit means Brexit.

Some commentators – in the UAE media and elsewhere – have suggested that Britain is in retreat, that Brexit is another sign of the UK stepping back from the global stage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The UK is one of the most influential countries in the world, and is a force for good. Our economy – the world’s fifth largest – grew most among the G7 in 2014, and was one of the two fastest growing major advanced economies (with the US) last year.

We are a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a member of the G7, the G20, NATO and the Commonwealth. We play leading roles in all those fora. We were the first (and so far only) member of the G7 to increase our international development assistance to the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income – a commitment now enshrined in UK law.

We have so far committed over $3 billion to help Syrians who have been forced from their homes, and the neighbouring countries who are hosting so many of them. We are making major military, security, political and humanitarian contributions to the counter-Daesh coalition. We lead international efforts to tackle other global challenges – for example, the Ebola virus, anti-microbial resistance, modern slavery, tax transparency and corruption, on which we hosted a summit in May.

We have committed to keep our defence spending – already the second highest in NATO and the highest in the EU – at 2% of GDP. Our armed forces and security and intelligence agencies are respected globally. Our Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst trains future leaders from around the world. (The UAE has more Sandhurst graduates than any country apart from the UK.)

The UK economy is not only large, but fundamentally strong and attractive. Employment in the UK is at a record high. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2005. Capital requirements for our largest banks are now ten times higher than before the banking crisis.

The UK is the highest ranked major economy in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index. It is one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business, with strong rule of law, low corporate tax, a skilled and flexible workforce and world-beating financial, insurance, and tech services.

All of which explains why over one fifth of all foreign direct investment into Europe has been coming to the UK. In recent days, GlaxoSmithKline has decided to invest £275m to expand its UK manufacturing sites; Japanese technology firm Softbank has announced a £24bn investment into the UK; and the Australian Prime Minister has made clear his desire to proceed quickly with a new trade deal with the UK post-Brexit.

The UK is open for business and open for people. A record 36 million visited us in 2015. We welcomed a record number of visitors from the UAE in the first quarter of this year. London hosts nearly 110,000 international students from over 200 countries. Four of the world’s top ten universities are in the UK.

British skill and expertise is making a difference all over the world. Just look around the UAE, where Brits are running some of the UAE’s most successful companies, designing and building some of its most iconic infrastructure. British surgeons, British architects, British bankers – they have all contributed to the UAE’s remarkable evolution.

Britain will continue to thrive and to prosper; to be a reliable ally, trusted partner and creative global leader for the common good; to be open, diverse, tolerant, dynamic, outward facing, and ready for both challenge and opportunity.

About Philip Parham

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.