COM­MENT

Robina Shah, CEO and head of im­mi­gra­tion from Optimus Law, talks about how Britain and its sec­ond city are well and truly open for busi­ness, de­spite the West­min­ster gos­sip and Brexit scare sto­ries

Construction BusinessNews Middle East - - Contents -

ROBINA SHAH FROM OPTIMUS LAW DIS­CUSSES HOW BRITAIN AND ITS SEC­OND CITY ARE TRULY OPEN FOR BUSI­NESS

In early 2016, the UK gov­ern­ment led by the now long-for­got­ten ex-prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, warned that if Britain left the Euro­pean Union, the econ­omy would col­lapse. The Gov­er­nor of the Bank of Eng­land warned of re­ces­sion and mass un­em­ploy­ment. How­ever, the di­rect re­verse hap­pened – so what is re­ally hap­pen­ing in the UK econ­omy and should GCC in­vestors be tak­ing a sec­ond glance at what’s on of­fer?

Fis­cally, the UK’S po­si­tion has im­proved since the Brexit vote. The econ­omy grew by 2% in 2016 and 1.8% in 2017. The fall in Ster­ling has made ex­ports cheaper and con­se­quently, the UK ex­port growth reached a nine-month high in De­cem­ber 2017 as it con­tin­ued to out­per­form Europe’s other largest economies. UK ex­ports grew 13% year-on-year in Q3 2017.

For­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in the UK busi­nesses has con­tin­ued to rise and is set to eclipse $2tn for 2017. In ad­di­tion, the Oflce for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics re­ports that for Q3 2017 (a year af­ter Brexit), the un­em­ploy­ment rate fell to 4.3%, down from 4.8% for a year ear­lier and the joint low­est since 1975. Brexit has not stopped com­pa­nies from hir­ing.

Britain’s ro­bust econ­omy and seem­ingly un­stop­pable conldence, may be thanks partly to huge lev­els of gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and hous­ing, which forms part of the coun­try’s wider $32bn Na­tional Pro­duc­tiv­ity In­vest­ment Fund.

ETH­NIC DIVER­SITY

Gulf in­vestors will be par­tic­u­larly wel­come in a city with ma­jor pop­u­la­tions from the Mid­dle East, In­dia, and Pak­istan. Over 20% of Birm­ing­ham’s res­i­dents are Mus­lim and 46.9% of the pop­u­la­tion are eth­nic mi­nori­ties. Ma­jor spo­ken lan­guages in­clude Ara­bic, Hindi, Ta­ga­log, Pashto, Urdu, Pol­ish, and Tamil; and GCC in­vestors can eas­ily lnd pro­fes­sional ser­vices com­pa­nies that un­der­stand their needs on is­sues per­tain­ing to busi­ness travel visas, re­lo­ca­tion, tax and the gen­eral busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

We’re see­ing soar­ing num­bers of in­vestors from the Mid­dle East and Asia come to us for help in se­cur­ing a Tier 1 In­vestor Visa and Tier 1 En­trepreneur Visa. I think this shows that Britain is well and truly open for busi­ness. We un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is for peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of the world to feel at ease when mak­ing their ap­pli­ca­tions – and when they get to the coun­try. Here in Birm­ing­ham, we are able to re­as­sure Gulf in­vestors that they’re work­ing with le­gal ad­vi­sors who ‘get’ their cul­tural needs. I know how im­por­tant that is.

Mak­ing that jour­ney to the UK and to Birm­ing­ham it­self is now even eas­ier for GCC in­vestors – and they can do it with an air­line they know well. Emi­rates Air­line added a sec­ond A380 to its Dubai-birm­ing­ham route in 2017, in­creas­ing ca­pac­ity to over 1,200 pas­sen­gers ev­ery day. Some of the Gulf’s big­gest lrms have al­ready made the jour­ney. Saudi Ara­bia’s largest com­pany, the di­ver­siled man­u­fac­tur­ing lrm, Saudi Ara­bia Ba­sic In­dus­tries Cor­po­ra­tion (SABIC), has its UK head­quar­ters in the Birm­ing­ham sub­urbs.

Dur­ing a visit to Birm­ing­ham, the UAE’S Sheikh Sayed Ali Hashmi, who over­sees the UAE le­gal sys­tem, said that Birm­ing­ham’s diver­sity was an at­trac­tive prospect for in­vestors in the Mid­dle East. It’s also no­table that in­vest­ment in Birm­ing­ham is com­ing from all cor­ners of the globe, pro­vid­ing Gulf in­vestors with in­ter­na­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties from a Birm­ing­ham base. Re­cent ex­am­ples in­clude one of North Amer­ica’s big­gest en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion lrms, Burn Mcdon­nell, which is open­ing its lrst UK oflce in Birm­ing­ham in the city.

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