The expression ‘despite Brexit’ has become familiar in Britain in recent years, often found accompanying any positive economic, trade or employment news. And while it’s true that Brexit is still a grey cloud of uncertainty, there is little evidence so far that it has had any significant impact on the country’s ability to remain one of the world’s most attractive destinations for business.

Of course, there is the small issue of the ongoing negotiations between Britain and the EU over a free trade deal. Many argue that it is in the interests of both parties to agree a deal and in the interests of neither not to. These same people view the chest-thumping from both sides as mere theatre and are optimistic and that at the eleventh hour (as is often the way with the EU) a mutually beneficial agreement can be struck.

At least, that’s the view of Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove who in August 2020 claimed that he was confident a deal would materialise following a shift in tone by the EU. The pandemic too has played a role in the negotiations, with neither side believing that in the wake of sweeping economic damage across the continent, now is the ideal time to play squabbling politics.

While Britain is on course to be the worst-hit economy out of the G7, there are already optimistic indications of a v-shaped recovery with 8.7% of GDP growth in June 2020. On top of that, the recovery could be boosted by an influx of business leaders, experts and specialists from Hong Kong. In July 2020, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that a bespoke visa route would effectively offer citizenship to 2.9 million residents of the increasingly unstable region in light of controversial security laws imposed by China. 

The Northern Powerhouse of Manchester has recently been named in a Financial Times report as the number one business-friendly city in Europe. However, it is London that still holds all the aces for blue-chip companies, start-ups and ambitious executives seeking career development opportunities. Convenient, collaborative and connected, London remains one of the best places in the world in which to grow a global business.

While Britain remains number one in Forbes Best Countries for Business list, its capital city was named the Best City in the World for Business Travel 2020 by CEOWORLD magazine and Best Business City in the World for a second consecutive year by Business Traveller Asia Pacific magazine. At the latter ceremony, Bingbing Zhao, Chief Representative, Greater China, London & Partners, said:

“London remains one of the best places in the world in which to grow a global business. It’s convenient, collaborative and connected. It’s a world-class city with everything needed to help your business succeed: favourable time zones, access to banks and finance, regulators and government bodies, plus world-leading universities and talent.

“Over 40% of European HQ’s are based in London, which allows quick access to decision-makers. And there’s an incredible mix of old and new – highly unique-venues as well, which is very attractive for event planners and delegates. All of this makes London a truly international business city.”

With a 104% year on year increase from Chinese business visitors from 2017-2019, it is clear that Chinese business travellers are discovering that the UK capital is open for business . . . ‘despite Brexit’.

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