Trade and Investment News: March

Brexit and Germany

On 14th October 2023, The Guardian reported that the then German Finance Minister, Christin Lindner, had issued an open invitation to the UK via an interview with the BBC to reach a new deal to improve Brexit trading relations that would reduce trade barriers and “obstacles in daily business life”.

The trade and investment relations between the UK and Germany, the EU’s largest economy, are already strong and it is good to see a desire to make them even better.

According to a regular Trade and Investment factsheet issued by the UK’s Department for Business & Trade (DBT) on 19th January 2024, total trade in goods and services ( exports plus imports) between the UK and Germany was £146.9 billion in the four quarters to the end of Quarter 2 (Q2) 2023, an increase of 15.9% or £20.2 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022. Of this £146.9 billion:

  • Total UK exports to Germany amounted to £61.1 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023 ( an increase of 15.8% or £8.3 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022); and
  • Total UK imports from Germany amounted to £85.8 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023 ( an increase of 16.0% or £11.8 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q2 2022).

The DBT factsheet showed that Germany was the UK’s 2nd largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q2 2023, accounting for 8.2% of total UK trade.

The factsheet also showed that, in 2021, the outward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) from the UK in Germany was £34.8 billion , accounting for 2.0% of the total UK outward FDI stock and that, in the same year, the inward stock pf FDI in the UK from Germany was £39.7 billion, accounting for 2.0% of the total UK inward FDI stock.

The importance of Germany to the UK ( and vice versa) as a trade and investment partner will hopefully ensure that that partnership grows from strength to strength.

Brexit and a 4th Anniversary Review by the UK’s Department for Business & Trade

On 31st January 2024, to commemorate the 4th anniversary of Brexit, the UK’s Department for Business & Trade ( DBT) and its Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, published a review of the UK’s trade and investment achievements over that time.

The 22-page review ( peppered with punchy bullet points)  is more of a celebration than a sober analysis but who is to say that this quite passionate embrace of the UK’s present and future is wrong in the current cold international climate ? Not a plea for boosterism perhaps so much as for a bit more cautious optimism!

On the regulatory front, the DBT ‘s line is perhaps best summarised on page 9 of the review, which states that “ the UK’s new Smarter Regulation Programme ensures that we only use regulation as a last – resort – not a first choice – and its design and use are proportionate and fit for the future. To reduce business burden and cut red tape , DBT has led a programme across HMG ( His Majesty’s Government) which has delivered reforms across employment, product safety, offshore wind, port regulations, and wine. At the same time the EU have introduced thousands of laws on EU Member States, many of which would have applied to the UK and which we have avoided. We are also taking forward the large majority of the recommendations from the Taskforce for Innovation , Growth and Regulatory Reform on the UK’s regulatory landscape”. The syntax may be a little deficient but the message seems clear!

Fighting stuff, which may be seen as laying down a challenge to  future UK governments which might wish to align UK policies more closely to those of the EU.

Brexit and the “Entente Cordiale” – Is It Working?

Anglo-French relations have always been complex, not least in the post-Brexit era.

Two recent newspaper articles illustrate the current complexities.

On the more positive side, an article in the weekly edition of the French newspaper, “Le Monde”, for the week commencing 3rd February 2024 reported on the award to British illustrator and independent author, Posy Simmonds, of the First Prize at the annual Cartoonists’ and  Illustrators’ Festival in Angouleme, France, held in January 2024.  The article commented that this award showed that Brexit had not succeeded in totally  destroying the cultural links between France and the UK.

On the less positive side, an article in the property section of The Times for 9th February 2024 on the post-Brexit difficulties experienced by British villa owners in France in getting long-term visas for France and letting their properties, led to the article’s title being labelled  “Are British gite owners saying au revoir?”. Life has not been made easier by the recent French court ruling  declaring unconstitutional the Bill passed by the French Parliament that would have allowed Britons to stay in France for six months a year , rather than the current post-Brexit allowance of 90 days in a 180-day period. Nevertheless, it appears from the article that many Britons are persevering with their French dream and finding ways to regularise their position in France in legally acceptable ways.

Long live the spirit of the “Entente Cordiale”!

Brexit and “The Duchess of Malfi”

On 25th February 2024,”The Duchess of Malfi” by John Webster was memorably performed at the Wanamaker theatre in London, part of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre complex on the South Bank, as one of a series of performances of the play at the theatre during that winter period.

This 17th century play takes place in Italy ( as the name suggests !)  but this multi-themed drama ( although set  in time about 100 years before)  appears to capture the spirit of England under the Stuarts. By its appeal, It also illustrates the cultural community of interest between England, Italy and indeed other European nations that existed in that early post – Renaissance period.

One of the most famous lines from the play is “Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust, Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust”. If this means that ultimately we all shape our own destiny, it may be a metaphor for the UK and the EU and the relationship between them in the post-Brexit period, although wider world events do clearly play a part.

Time will tell!