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Post-Brexit plan

Grimstone to lead PM’s foreign investment team

Gerry Grimstone

Gerry Grimstone: heads new mini-department

Boris Johnson is developing new plans to attract foreign investment as Downing Street battles to bolster the UK’s post-Brexit prospects.

With parliament divided over the Internal Markets Bill, Mr Johnson is pressing ahead with ensuring government is at the forefront of promoting Britain as an attractive location to overseas investors when it leaves the EU.

The Office for Investment will sit within the Department for International Trade (DIT) and will be led by former Standard Life Aberdeen chairman Gerry Grimstone. It will harness public and private sector experts to ensure the flow of investment continues.

The British government wants the UK to be the most attractive destination in the world for overseas investors, and sees the new body as a “bridge” that will make it easier for overseas companies to commit. 

Business leaders have said this will require stability in tax, trade and regulation.

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Mr Grimstone told the Financial Times that the UK needed to “refocus and redouble our efforts to attract foreign investment, which will increase productivity, economic growth across the country, boost our exports and better our research and development environment”.

Foreign investment into the UK is predicted to fall by more than a third after the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at the end of the transition period on 31 December 31, according to a study by UCL and LSE economists.

Scotland has been the most attractive location outside London for foreign investors and was the second most attractive location for financial services FDI in 2019 for the seventh consecutive year.

Bill defeated in Lords

The Prime Minister said he would push ahead with the Internal Market Bill despite a major defeat in the House of Lords which saw several contentious clauses removed. 

A cross party amendment struck out a clause giving ministers the power to breach the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

MPs, including Tory backbenchers, had already accused the government of threatening to break international law and the outrage has spread to the Lords.

Former Conservative leader Lord Howard said: ‘How can we reproach other countries – Russia, China, Iran – if their behaviour becomes reprehensible when we ourselves have such scant regard for the treaties we sign up to, when we ourselves set such a lamentable example?’

The Government insisted it will reinstate any removed parts of the Bill when it returns to the Commons next month, despite the risk to relations with US president-elect Joe Biden who says he will not support any Brexit deal that weakens the Northern Ireland peace agreeement.

Cabinet minister George Eustice said the Bill was being misunderstood. ‘This is about providing legal clarity, legal certainty and protecting the internal market in the UK but, crucially, standing behind the Belfast agreement,” he said.

In a speech in London former Prime Minister Sir John Major expressed concern over the UK’s “inflexibility” and “threats” towards the EU, saying they would make future trade “less profitable”.

He said the government’s intention to seek to re-insert measures removed from the Internal Market bill by the Lords “was a slippery slope down which no democratic government should ever travel”.

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