Links 54 | Britain is open for business
I was in London in July for meetings with Ministers and the Governor of the Bank of England.
These last few weeks have been historic and extraordinary. In the largest democratic exercise in the UK’s history, the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June. The new British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has made it very clear that the decision of the people must be respected. Brexit means Brexit, and the UK will make a success of it. Leaving the EU will be a big change. But the fundamentals of the UK, as a great trading nation committed to a strong, business-friendly economy, will not change.
It is important to remember that the UK remains a member of the EU until our withdrawal is completed. Once the formal process to leave begins, withdrawal could take up to two years, or more if negotiations are extended. While we remain a member of the EU, we will continue to play a role and represent the interests of the British people. Looking further ahead, we will want the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, as well as other trading partners around the world, including Ecuador.
So what does this mean for UK – Ecuador commercial relations? Again, many things will not change. The UK is an important market for Ecuadorean products, and will remain so outside the EU. Exports to the UK reached $166m in 2015. Many British companies are doing business in Ecuador, despite challenging circumstances and new restrictions on imports. We will keep working, with the active support of the British/Ecuador Chambers of Commerce in Quito and Guayaquil, to deliver closer commercial ties between the UK and Ecuador, building on almost two centuries of shared history.
Promoting strong education ties will remain a priority. As home to four of the top ten universities in the world, the UK is a popular destination for Ecuadoreans looking for a world class education and a great place to study. There are more Ecuadoreans studying in the UK than ever before. The number has tripled in the last four years, and Ecuador now sends more students than some much larger countries in the region, such as Argentina and Chile. This year, we have offered a record number of Chevening Scholarships, the UK Government’s fully funded study programme for future leaders. All of this builds strong foundations for the years to come.
Some people have asked me whether Brexit will make the UK less internationally focused. The answer is a very clear no. The UK will continue to play a strong, proactive and positive role across the world, through our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, membership of the G7, G20, NATO, and the Commonwealth. We will continue to spend 2% of our GDP on defence and to keep our promise to allocate 0.7% of our national income to development assistance for the world’s poorest.
Britain is ready to confront what the future holds from a position of strength. We have today one of the strongest major advanced economies in the world (currently 5th largest). As we leave the EU and forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the UK is the same confident, outward-looking, globally-minded, big-thinking country we have always been. Britain is open for business and ready to embrace the new opportunities that Brexit brings.