Well dear readers, as sick as I was of David Miliband looking like a schoolboy who should be wearing shorts, school blazer and playing conquers instead of the hard-headed leader and ultimate representative of UK foreign policy whilst promoting an extremely lame and subsurvient “ethical” foreign policy……..I now read this……..
Now I have covered this subject in several posts in the past few weeks…….but I am going to cover it again……as it is beginning to annoy me, not so much as to the theory or the ideology behind it…….but the way it is being communicated…….and it will probably irk me in the way it will be implimented as well.
Let’s take a few of the PMs words and evealute them.
“I want to re-fashion British foreign policy to make it more focused on the commercial aspect. We need to demonstrate that Britain is open for business. “As we move out of recession and into recovery, we need to make sure we pay our way in the world… I want us to be much more effective at winning orders for Britain.”
Well, after leaving the employ of Her Maj, I entered the private sector with some relish and strove to build a few SMEs that have survived the test of time and the recession…..to the point where they are still owned by me but run by others in the UK allowing me to do pretty much nothing but enjoy the nation of Ukraine…..permanently.
However business is a two-way street. If “Britain is open for business” as he claims, then there will be a fair percentage of business that would need to open a physical location in the UK and will want to staff it with their own people in many of the top and more sensitive positions…..which is not exactly going to help the immigration numbers (by way of foreigners in the UK at any particular point in time for HM Gov Statistics) even if foreign entities on UK soil will ultimately provide middle mnagement and lower level employment for those currently being made unemployed.
The issues relating to “leave to remain” in the UK for foreigners are pretty much the same as foreigners coming to Ukraine. A Business Visa valid for 10 years does not mean you can stay in the UK or Ukraine for 10 years. You can only stay in either nation for 180 days from 360 under a Business Visa.
To live and work for 365 days of the year in either nation you would require an IM1 Visa (or UK equivilent)……and that requires companies opening up all sorts of (occasionally sensitive) information to the authorities and justifying why a home national cannot do the job instead of your chosen men and women.
Tightening the Visa regime and adding additional language competancy skills seems to fly in the face of “Britain being open for business”. There is a business in interpretors and translation after all which can be adequately filled by UK citizens studying languages at university they may otherwise never get to use after qualification.
Is it me, or does making it harder to get into…..and then stay for any length of time in……the UK not fly in the face of opening Britian for business via Ambassadors and Embassies?
What are they to say? Come to Britain…..if you can get in…….as we would really like you to improve our national economic output?
Or am I missing the point and that only your foreign money is welcome in the UK……and not actually you……so why not take a punt with “The City”…..or buy out some failing firms and run it from over there?
Why would I, in Ukraine, invest money in the UK when I can get 10% on my money in a standard (European owned) bank here?
Why would I open a business (or subsidiary) in the UK when I will pay substantially less taxation in the Republic of Ireland and whilst my money does not suffer from language ability, I do….. and can’t get in to even visit my UK entity because I cannot pass and English language test?
In a return to a recent post when I asked Mr Hague if there was anything specific I should point the millionaires and billionaires I know at, when considering and tauting the UK, I note there does not seem to be a list yet.
“The Prime Minister said that in every meeting with a foreign counterpart, British ministers and officials must be armed with a clear list of commercial priorities, so they can win contracts and oil the wheels for bilateral and multilateral trade deals.”
Well, what are they? BAE Systems?, Banking?, IT Technology? Should Britain become the next call centre in a 180 degree turn around from India? Am I to promote Ann Summers to Saudi Arabia……despite knowing that it will not be a particularly prudent thing to do?
Is this “list” going to be centrally held in complete opposition to his ideology of “centralisation”?
Does he expect all people who could be interested in investment in the UK to haul their exceptionally wealthy backsides to Kyiv?
I can assure him that this is not the case now and will not be the case. Exceptionally wealthy people have a tendency to expect you to come to them. If that is the case, cutting the FCO budget by 25% is folly as you would need small UK consuls, or at the very least Honourary Consuls to represent the UK in every major city in every nation where suitable people are settled.
Should the UK stick an Honourary Consul in every British Council outlet……or at least attach one to each that is reasonably local, reasonably well know to the locals (and therefore trusted) already?
Exceptionally ambitious considering a 25% budget cut as the UK could not even afford to give so many people business cards or pay any form of travelling/entertainment expenses incurred….even if these people would do it for free amongst the other things they do in their daily lives.
The reason businesses have outlets in every city and town across the UK is for a local presence and to be easily accessible.
Being easily accessible is a major consideration. Only last week, an aquaintance of mine, Mr Alexandros Ikonomou, Head Councellor, Consulate General of Greece in Odessa for Trade & Economic Department…….to give him his full title……..with another aquaintaince of mine, Kostas Aboelas, Chairman of the Greek Chamber of Commerce…….were on every Odessa local channel giving a very public push for doing business with Greece and encouraging tourism (with the inference Greece would be very helpful with the Shengen issue for Odessa locals wanting to go).
The whole point of this? They are here in Odessa…..well Alexandros is……full time…..and is accessible to anyone wanting to do deals with Greece. Alexandros is so local that even when I am trying to avoid him, I see him two or three times in a day when in the city because we eat and drink in the same places and with the same influential people.
He is far more visible, but just as politically adept, than the Polish Consul or the Russian Consul……or any other Consular official in Odessa……but the point is, he has a high profile that retains professionalism, uses all the local media to promote Greece consistantly and is always available to the locals……after all, there a a lot of very rich Ukrainians (and others) in Odessa with varied business interests.
More locals could pick him out in a line up as the diplomat from Greece, than can give you directions to the British Council in Odessa.
There is little point in having articles and advertisement in the Kyiv Post when the Kyiv Post is not even sold in Odessa and even less people would read an English langauge newspaper.
If you want to influence the locals, you have to have a high profile……or at least a profile they recognise subconsciously from the TV (over and above radio or newspapers……as Greece is doing now) and also be seen by the locals in their haunts on a very regular basis. Out of sight is out of mind as they say!
“Businessmen will be encouraged to apply for ambassadors’ posts in a move that will put some Foreign Office noses out of joint.”
Hardly surprising is it? Those in the Civil Service chose the public sector over the private sector. Now of course, that career structure can be circumvented by someone who made £500,000 selling socks at Harrogate market over a 20 year period….but has the negotiation skills of a dead haddock, the charisma of bowl of porridge and the diplomacy of Vlad the Impailer?
Why would a successful businessman drop out of business where they make lots of money and become an Ambassador……or are we going to start ignoring possible conflicts of interests if they are also to remain in business?
Has he not noticed, the trend is, once you leave politics or high ranking Civil Service positions, you join a leading private company in a highly placed position……not the other way around.
Businessmen running the FCO outposts in foreign climbs is not a good idea.
There is more to representing the UK than looking at business plans, PEST/SWAT analysis, forecasts and bottom lines whilst quietly passing on the telephone number for Lord Goldsmith for a “small fee” or “stake” in any proposal . There are local political and social issues to deal with, there are UK citizens issues to deal with, there is an ability to not only see where a nation is heading but to communicate is successfully back to those in London and then try and change tht direction to one which the UK would be more comfortable with.
Given the outstanding business leadership seen during the current crisis, one would have to state that they could very well miss vital indicators as to a nations direction be it overtly or covertly……such as armies massing on borders or constitutions being trampled upon. After all, they seemed to have missed toxic assets and unsustainable bubbles.
Will they have time for the NGOs and dissidents that the UK would want to quietly support…..or if there is no profit in it, will the Embassies simply become an extention of the DfTI?
Is the plan really to split the FCO into a political entity and an international DfTI? If so, there is no need for an Ambassador to have a PhD in marketing, sales, business or accounting and that position should continue to be held by career Civil Servants with far better diplomatic and negotiating skills than many businessmen.
Would I prefer the UK Ambassador to be Leigh Turner, the current Ambassador or Sir Alan Sugar or Philip Green?
I will take the Cival Servant every time Mr Cameron!