Why are foreign investments in the UK rising?

Is it just the weather?

There is some good news for the UK taxman this summer. First, the country actually had a summer. It even fell on a Sunday, as a colleague pointed out. Second, according to the Office for National Statistics, this year Brits are happier. The Jubilee played its part, a report suggests.

And this is not all: while Jubileeing first and waiting for RB immediately afterwards, foreign investments have also increased, according to the Inward Investment Report 2012/2013 presented by government agency UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

The UKTI says that while global Foreign Direct Investment inflows declined by 18 per cent, inflows into the UK experienced a 22 per cent year on year increase.

"The UK has received a major vote of confidence from foreign investors confirming that the UK remains a world leading business destination,” says Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green, adding that "attracting foreign investment is an important element of the UK Government’s economic and growth programme."

Between Olympic and Royal fever the UK reached the peak of its marketing capabilities in the past two years. But what supported this powerful business card?

The World Bank ranks the UK among the top countries for ease of doing business. It considers elements such as the 13 days on average to set up a business or the 24 hours necessary to register a company.

The UKTI claims that the removal and reduction of "red tape’" has already saved UK-based businesses approximately £1bn in the last two years. It also highlights the advantages of a flexible labour market and of a "highly competitive tax environment", with the main rate of corporation tax being reduced to 21 per cent in 2014 and 20 per cent in 2015 – the lowest rate in the G7 and the joint lowest in the G20.

A sunny picture to indulge in during the summer.

The strengths of this chapter of the UK economy are reflected in the identikit of its main investors: North America and Japan, but also India and China, across very different sectors. Altogether Britain has attracted 1,559 projects, 11 per cent more than the previous year and the UKTI estimates these investments have generated 170,000 jobs.

Foreigners are particularly keen in investing in software and computer services, which, with 17 per cent of projects, represent the largest slice of the cake. Financial and business services are the second most attractive, but the broad range of investments includes creative and media services, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals and renewable energy.

Emerging economies are investing from scratch and buying British companies, but it’s the comparison with other EU member states that can work as a litmus test of the real strengths of the Brits.

Investments from French and German companies have increased by 43 and 18 per cent respectively.

Despite a 5 per cent reduction, Italy is, together with France, the third foreign investor.

Italians are attracted by the political and economic stability. No wonder, as the waiting for the Royal Baby has been equalled only by the waiting in the past days for the outcome of the final sentence on former PM Berlusconi.

A legislation that encourages innovation is also considered a reason to invest in the UK, together with an open market that makes it easy to access talent.

"Italian companies increasingly see the UK as the ideal destination to grow, succeed and access international opportunities. The exceptional Italian results reflect the capacity for recovery of the country and of its profound entrepreneurial roots, as well as its industrial excellence," says British consul for Milan Vic Annels.

This sounds a bit as if we’ve got it all, apart from a couple of fundamental things, but as our governments are busy at the moment, we’ll come at yours.

Interestingly, the reasons given to support this choice highlight some historical weaknesses of other European countries (it is probably worth mentioning that the UK is in Europe as well) and some historical strengths of the British system more than a renewed economic epiphany.

So, after all this sun, let’s not forget the role of rain in growing awareness: the UK has been dynamic and successful in attracting foreign investors. But this is only a chapter of the economy and the Royal baby is going to cry a lot before becoming a king.

Photograph: Getty Images

Sara Perria is the Assistant Editor for Banking and Payments, VRL Financial News

Photo: Getty Images
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Bomb Isil? That's exactly what they want

The government appears not to answer the nature of its enemy, warns Maria Norris.

As MPs are set to vote on further airstrikes in Syria, it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the government does not fully appreciate the complexity of the problem Isil poses. Just a cursory glance at its magazine, the pronouncements of its leaders and its ideology reveals that Isil is desperate for Western bombs to fall out of the sky. As Martin Chulov argues, Isil is fighting a war it believes was preordained since the early days of Islam. Isil’s obsession with the city of Dabiq, in Northern Syria, stems from a hadith which prophesises that the ‘Crusader’ army will land in the city as a precursor to a final battle where Islam will emerge victorious. Dabiq is also the name of its magazine, which starts every issue with the same quote: "The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify -- by Allah's permission -- until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq". Isil wants a war with the West. If we don’t negotiate with terrorists, then we also should not give them what they want.

Further, bombs are indiscriminate and will inevitably lead to the suffering of those trapped in Isil territories. Isil is counting on this suffering to swell their ranks. Civilian suffering from airstrikes only underline the narrative that the West is at war with Islam, which plays directly into Isil’s hands. And despite misleading headlines and the genuine government concern with individuals fleeing to Syria, Isis is supremely unpopular. It is no wonder that its magazine is filled with glossy adds begging people to move to its territories.  You cannot be a state without people. Terrorist attacks such as Paris thus have a two-pronged purpose: they provoke the West to respond with its military, and they act as a recruitment drive. The fact that fake Syrian passports were found around the sites of the Paris attacks is no coincidence as Isil are both seeking to stem the flow of refugees from its territories and hoping to provoke an Islamophobic backlash. They hope that, as more Muslims feel alienated in the West, more will join them, not just as fighters, but as the doctors, nurses and teachers it desperately needs.

In addition to this, airstrikes overlook the fact that Isil is a result of what Fawaz Gerges calls a severe, organic institutional crisis in the Middle East. In a lecture at the London School of Economics earlier this year, Gerges pointed out the dysfunction created when a region that is incredibly resource rich also is also deeply undemocratic, riddled with corruption, food insecurity, unemployment and poverty. This forms an institutional vacuum that is filled by non-state actors as the population does not trust its political structures. Further, the civil war in Syria is also the site of the toxic soup of Middle Eastern state dysfunction. Iran supports Assad, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, fund anti-Shia groups in Syria. Throw in the Kurdish conflict, Turkey’s ambiguous position and Russian bombs, it is difficult to see how airstrikes will solve anything.

Finally, it is crucial that Isil is seen as a direct result of the Iraq war. The American-led invasion destroyed the institutions, giving the Shia majority power almost overnight, creating deep dissatisfaction in the Sunni regions of Iraq. On top of this thousands of foreign fighters flooded Iraq to fight the invaders, attracting disenfranchised and angry Sunnis. The result is that since 2003, Iraq has been embroiled in a sectarian civil war.  It is in civil war, inherently connected to the Iraq War, that you find the roots of Isil. As even the Prime Minister concedes that ground troops are necessary, albeit it regional ground troops with its own set of problems, it is important to consider what further monster can arise from the ashes of another ill-thought out military intervention in the Middle East.
We have had decades of military intervention in the Middle East with disastrous consequences. Airstrikes represent business as usual, when what we actually need is a radically new approach. Who is funding Isil? Who is buying its oil? How to curb Isil’s recruitment drives? What can be done about the refugees? How to end the conflict in Syria? What happens to Assad? These are questions hopefully being addressed in talks recently held in Vienna with Russian, Ira, the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states. Airstrikes do not answer any of these questions. What airstrikes do is give Isil exactly what it is asking for. Surely this is reason enough not to bomb Syria. 

Maria W. Norris is a PhD candidate and a teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her PhD is on the UK counter-terrorism strategy since 9/11 and its relationship with identity. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.