Open for business

Business, Economy | Sat 15 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
UK/Ireland trade

Ireland and the UK have always had a close trading relationship, something which the British Government is keen to strengthen and develop over the next number of years, writes Lord Green, UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment.

In an uncertain global economic climate, the UK is making strides in competing with high-growth markets around the world, where competition has never been more intense, nor the sources of investment so diverse. Our Government is committed to making Britain the best place to start and grow a business and we strive to strengthen the UK offer to international enterprises.

According to FDI markets, Ireland has been the fifth largest investor in the UK on average over the last 10 years. Many Irish firms already see Britain as the best place to invest in Europe, with its easy access to global markets, a highly trained workforce and welcoming regulatory environment.

This is perhaps no more evident than in the number of Irish companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which is more than from any other overseas country. Significantly, there are also some 45,000 Irish directors of British companies, representing 16% of all non-British directors in the UK. In this financial year alone, there were 32 Irish investment projects from Ireland into the UK, creating and protecting some 2,000 jobs. They are being joined by an increasing number of innovative new investors.

Irish expertise

From Sisk Group to Saadian Technologies; United Drug to Mercury Engineering, Irish companies trading in the UK represent sectors as diverse as ICT, retail, food and drink, business and professional services, construction and engineering. Take, for example, Sisk Group, a fifth generation family business which operates in Ireland, the UK, Poland and the Middle East. It has grown from beginnings as a small local builder, founded in Cork 150 years ago, into an international construction company.

I am pleased to see that the Sisk Group was one of 13 Irish companies that were awarded large-scale Olympic Games-related contracts during the construction of infrastructure for London 2012. There is no doubt that their experience will put them in good stead to work on other major global sports projects worldwide. Another Irish company, Saadian Technologies, has a unique position in the UK police market, being the only commercial supplier of prisoner intelligence systems to 38 police services around the country.

Partnership opportunities

We each greatly benefit from the flow of goods and services between our economies, which amounts to one billion euro every week and we want to see this expand and develop further.

With Ireland’s increasing innovation in the energy, agrifood, financial services, creative, ICT and pharma sectors, there is considerable scope to develop strong partnerships and share skills and expertise with our Irish counterparts. Following the joint statement of the Prime Minister and An Taoiseach in 2012, and their most recent summit in London in April, we are actively engaged on a number of levels in making this a reality. But I want to see more Irish firms choose the UK as the place do business. Our unique relationship, close sea and air links, a shared language and similar regulatory frameworks, makes Ireland an ideal partner and the UK a first step market for Irish companies. These fundamental links are perhaps nowhere more evident than in the presence of a large, valued and integrated Irish community in Britain and the increasing number of British people who now live and work in Ireland.

Invest in the UK

The Government actively encourages Irish companies to locate in the UK, but for the investor, it’s important to feel accepted once you’re here. We have world-class professional support services; strong independent regulators and a multicultural, multilingual population which makes recruiting a workforce that much easier. Above all, we have a longstanding culture of openness.

But we are far from complacent, and there are several areas where the Government is taking action to ensure that the UK remains attractive to overseas firms and competitive internationally. We have introduced help for investors with the Enterprise Investment Scheme, which offers 30% income tax reliefs to those who buy new shares in high-risk companies. This scheme now covers small and medium-sized firms, and has supported £8 billion of investment to date.

In addition to our reform of planning procedures, we’re tackling regulation. We share a desire with Ireland to reduce the burden of regulation, particularly on small and medium enterprises. When it comes to re-locating, the UK ranks seventh globally for ‘ease of doing business’ according to the World Bank, the highest ranking for a major EU economy. It takes just 13 days to set up a company in the UK, compared to the OECD’s average of 15 days and the world average of 35 days.

We are also the number one destination for European headquarters with more overseas companies setting up their European headquarters in the UK than anywhere else.

Whether you are a potential or existing investor looking to do business in Britain, UKTI can provide a range of tailored services that suits your specific needs. Britain is open for business – and we stand by our promise that the UK is the ideal partner for Ireland’s ambitious and innovative businesses looking to expand and grow.