Investing in Britain

It was great news to read that the recent fear-mongering over whether German giant BMW was actively considering moving production out of Britain was completely unfounded. In stark contrast to the rumours in last week’s Financial Times, BMW board member Ian Robertson confirmed in comments reported by City A.M. that “we are committed to our operations in the UK, our workforce here.” Around 60 per cent of the 378,000 Minis made by BMW last year rolled off the production line in Oxford; its factories in Swindon, Hams Hall and Oxford currently employ around 6,300 workers to make BMW engines and Mini vehicles. The assurances from BMW come after a host of foreign-owned car makers, including Japan’s Nissan and Toyota, and Vauxhall owner PSA Group, announced plans to build new models in the UK.

In other car manufacturing news, Jaguar Land Rover has just announced a £20 billion investment package over the next five years, with a focus on launching new cars and increasing the range of engines made at its factory in Wolverhampton which has doubled in size to over 2 million square feet. Investors have been told that the new all-electric i-Pace will be followed by another three new cars between now and 2023, including an all new replacement for the 70-year-old Land Rover Defender.

And, in a huge boost for our defence sector, BAE Systems has beaten rivals from Spain and Italy to win a £20 billion contract to supply nine brand-new and state-of-the-art warships for our friends and allies in Australia. The first time that a British design for new-build frigates has been exported since the 1970s, the new Hunter class frigates are based on the BAE Type 26 ships that BAE are already building for the Royal Navy. Liam Fox said “the UK and Australia already enjoy a strong trading relationship worth more than £13billion a year. Today’s announcement is a further boost to this relationship which will create significant opportunities for companies in both countries to deepen their trading ties.” The news comes only a week after BAE won the contract to build new assault vessels for the US Marine Corps.

JCB, the company known for its cheerful bright yellow diggers and chaired by leading Brexiteer and business champion Lord Bamford, has announced that it is investing £50 million in expanding its Staffordshire base, creating hundreds of skilled new jobs. Graeme Macdonald, Chief Executive of JCB, said that the investment “underlines our commitment to manufacturing in Britain and in our home county of Staffordshire,” adding that it was one of the largest in the company’s history.

With JCB well-known for withdrawing from the Confederation of British Industry over the lobby group’s extreme anti-Brexit stance, it was welcome news that the CBI this week has been celebrating the financial services sector’s recent growth in pre-tax profits. CBI Chief Economist Rain Newton-Smith said “it’s good to see financial firms stepping up hiring and investment, with digital technologies and new services seen as the best way to grow in a fiercely competitive environment.” As Guido points out, contrary to the CBI’s own previous predictions, banks have ignored Project Fear, and instead focused on increased spending, employment and investment.

London continues to hold its place as the pre-eminent city in the world for work, in a survey of 366,000 overseas workers from nearly 200 countries. Beating away competition from the likes of New York, Berlin and Barcelona, the Boston Consulting Group study says that London’s prominence as a global financial, business and cultural capital does not appear to have been dimmed by Brexit. Another #DespiteBrexit story…