Discover a land alive with opportunity

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns showcases the many benefits of trading with the UK.

The Rt Hon Alun Cairns  MP


I’m delighted to be here this afternoon.

The United Kingdom is a globally minded, outward looking nation. Exiting the EU provides us with the opportunity to form a new, close relationship with our friends and allies in Europe but also to look outward to strengthen and deepen relationships with the rest of the world. I think this event is testimony to that new outward looking UK.

Of course, the UK is made up of four separate nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).

But still, businesses based in Scotland, Wales and NI are naturally part of the UK market, with its population of 65 million people.

Scotland, Wales and NI have devolved administrations, which can play to the advantage of any investor. The Devolved Administrations can provide complementary and additional support, to that provided by the UK Government and the stability and certainty of being part of the world’s 5th largest economy.

Together, we have been welcoming businesses and helping them grow for a long time. UK Government leading and providing stability, with local support from devolved administrations.

Many of you might have never been to Wales or know much about this small but significant nation of the UK, interestingly is almost twice the size of Qatar!

Wales is built upon a history of global trade – from the coal and steel industries that drove the industrial revolution during the 20th Century to financial services, creative industries and advanced manufacturing of today.

From that energy generating background, it is interesting to note that Wales and Qatar jointly provide up to 25% of the UK’s current natural gas needs, through Qatar Petroleum LNG Services, supplied through South Hook, a gas terminal in West Wales. When Her Majesty the Queen opened the facility back in 2009, it was a privilege to be present.

Since 2010, Wales has grown faster than any other part of the UK outside of London.

Along with Scotland and Northern Ireland the links to Qatar are already strong. In the second half of 2016, over £100 million of goods were exported to Qatar – this is a relationship that I’m keen to see prosper.

Qatar’s reputation in Aviation is exemplary and Wales’ activity in Aerospace is complementary.

Over half of the world’s commercial aircrafts are now flying using those wings made by Airbus in Broughton, North Wales.

Every two seconds, a GE powered airplane is taking off somewhere in the world. It’s service facility near Cardiff is a major asset, recently having won a £20M investment to maintain the new GE 9X engine. And North Wales was recently announced as the global repair hub for the F35 fighter jet.

But this expertise stretches to other parts of the UK too. If you travel by business class with Qatar airlines, you will soon be enjoying the comfort of seats provided by BE Aerospace Kilkeel in Northern Ireland.

So why Invest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Part of the UK

Well, they are all part of the UK - the number one destination in Europe for US FDI and the ‘best major location for ease of doing business’ according to the World Bank.

We enjoy excellent travel connections across the world, including to the rest of Europe and London is the world’s number one Financial Centre.

We have a legal system which investors know and understand and a low regulation and low taxation economy.

We have world class universities – Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to name just a few to compliment the excellence at Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and many others across England. The research base across the UK is admired internationally.

We live in the right time zone to do business with Asia in the morning and America in the afternoon.

World Leading Expertise

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all world leading, at the forefront of many areas.

Wales has a reputation as the home of some of the worlds’ biggest aerospace companies.

Northern Ireland is the number one global location for cyber security inward investment and is the top international location for US companies.

The United Kingdom is a global leader and powerhouse in the financial services industry. More overseas financial institutions and investors choose to do business in and with the UK than any other country.

Scotland’s financial sector, much of it in Edinburgh and Glasgow, has played a key role in the success of the UK as a global financial leader.

Belfast is the number one destination city globally for financial services technology projects and Northern Ireland has emerged as a legal-tech centre and Cardiff has been designated by International Trade and Invest as a Financial and Professional Service Centre of excellence.

And it isn’t just legal-tech, Wales also has expertise in medical technology, particularly diagnostics.

GE Healthcare, from their base in South Wales, provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care.

And with the backing of both UK Government and the Devolved Administrations, research and development is thriving.

Take for example the long-term project being driven by one of Wales’ leading technology firms IQE and Cardiff University. With backing from the Welsh Government and the UK Government, we are creating the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster in South Wales.

Or the Edinburgh bioquarter in the south east of the city which specialises in commercialising new discoveries.

Scotland’s universities have contributed extensively to science and engineering in recent years. From the theoretical discovery of the Higgs Boson to being the first to clone a mammal in Dolly the Sheep, Scottish universities have a track record of innovation and excellence.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are well placed to produce skilled, educated young people who will become the business leaders of the future.

Great Locations for Business

Cardiff, Wales’ capital city, is just two hours from London by high-speed train and the economies of North and Mid Wales are well connected with the major cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.

You can fly direct from London City to Cardiff in under an hour. Flights to Belfast are also an hour and the journey to Edinburgh in under an hour and a half.

Northern Ireland’s road and rail networks, combined with its three airports, provide easy access to the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also boast impressive digital infrastructure, providing high-speed voice and data connections throughout the world.

In addition, businesses investing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also enjoy highly competitive operating costs, commercial rents and property prices, which are among the lowest in Europe.

Support from Government

The level of support available to businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is significant and businesses based here have both the support of the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations, with the UK Department for International Trade playing a pivotal role.

Wales has some of the highest funding and financial incentives in the UK.

But it’s not all about work!

Culture and Lifestyle

Sport is something that unites the whole nation – or should I say raises friendly rivalry. Wales has historically flourished on the rugby pitch but football is now the order of the day – with our success at the European Championships last year. Our superstar Gareth Bale is a role model to many. Cardiff, will host the Champions League final in a number of week’s time – with a global audience of 300M.

Scotland has produced some of the biggest names is modern sport, including multi Olympic gold medallists Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Andy Murray, amongst others.

Glasgow proudly and successfully hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and has recently been recognised as the fifth best sporting city in the world, ahead of Paris, Sydney and Los Angeles, all of whom have hosted the Olympic Games.

And when you establish a business in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can be assured of a warm and genuine welcome and a lifestyle dividend for your employees.

From the stunning beaches of Pembrokeshire, where Harry Potter was filmed - to the Highlands of Scotland, with its stunning valley’s and Glenns, to the striking columns of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway, each nation can offer something different – in history and landscape and in culture.

The Lonely Planet named North Wales fourth in a worldwide list of the best regions to visit.

And Wales competes with Scotland to be The Golfing nation – Scotland with its St Andrew’s history but Wales has 180 golf courses, including the Celtic Manor, home to the Ryder Cup in 2010.

Northern Ireland’s expertise in Horse Racing is known throughout the world


I hope you walk away from this session with your eyes open to the opportunities offered by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I hope that I will soon see you following in the footsteps of others that have already invested, the likes of: GlaxoSmithKline who have invested £110 million in a Scottish site, which will manufacture respiratory medicines.

Citi, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, established its presence in Belfast in November 2004 and has continued to grow since.

Airbus and Aston Martin – two international companies with significant investments in Wales are here today.

Alongside the rest of the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face a new world of opportunity as we begin our negotiations to exit the EU, strengthen our relationships with current trading partners and forge relationships with new trading partners across the globe.

At the same time, we will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends with the rest of Europe.

As Secretary of State for Wales, you will perhaps forgive my obvious enthusiasm for pitching for Wales. I am ambitious for my country, it has a lot to offer the world.

But whether you choose Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or England, we may not be able to match the Qatar weather – but we can offer you a stable, growing economy, a skilled workforce, a warm welcome, a great place to do business and a determined UK Government, perfectly placed to open opportunities in Europe and beyond.

Published 30 March 2017