A year ago we celebrated together the 90th birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Today we celebrate to mark Her Majesty’s 91st birthday tomorrow. The Queen celebrates two birthdays each year; her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday in June. Official celebrations to mark the Sovereign’s birthday have often been held on a day other than the actual birthday, when there was a greater likelihood of good weather in the English summer, for the Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour.
We obtained special permission to hold our Queen’s Birthday Party, in Chile, in April to take advantage of what we thought would be better weather than June. You will see from the weather today June might be a better option!
A lot has happened in the last year. A lot in both the UK and Chile. A lot of changes in the world – many of them unexpected. Throughout the year, as in all the years before, the Queen provides a beacon of continuity and inspiration to many people around the world.
Many countries paid tribute at the 90th birthday celebrations, held last May in Windsor. Chile was represented, by the ‘Escuadra Escuestre Palmas de Peñaflor’, who I saw recently at a charity event here in Santiago. A spectacular display of horsemanship, and a great celebration of many aspects of Chilean culture.
And last May we were delighted to welcome President Bachelet and her Ministers, to London, and the business delegation for Chile Day. Celebrating links, and building partnerships and understanding - whether cultural, political or business - between our two countries is important for our future prosperity and security in an ever changing world. Some of that builds on the long historical links between UK and Chile; but most important is to forge links between young people for the future.
We were honoured to have HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visit Chile last September. With help from the Armada de Chile, both Santiago and Valparaiso were included in the Prince’s programme, which highlighted the work of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, and included meetings with schools and volunteers, such as the fire companies.
And I would like to pay tribute to the brave ‘bomberos’ of this country. The terrible devastation that Chile has faced this year – the area affected by the fires, is equivalent to a quarter the size of Wales – has been sad to see, and a tragedy for all affected. The UK, as a member of the EU, contributed some of the financial resources to help with the fire efforts and we have also offered to share our experiences – not that we have always got it right – on dealing with natural disasters and civil contingencies.
One of the changes in the last year is the decision from the referendum in the UK to leave the EU. Whilst we are leaving the EU, we of course are not leaving Europe. Our relationships with our European partners remain strong and important, but this is about repositioning Britain in the world. A world where our relationship with Chile is even more important. Many of you have asked me about what will happen in the next two years now that Article 50 has been triggered. Many of you have asked me about yesterday’s news about a General Election in June. I am not going to speculate. What we can be certain of is that our relations with Chile will endure, deepen and strengthen in the years to come, with the full commitment of the team here in the Embassy to make that happen.
Today, we should also celebrate some of the great work of the team in the last year. We have welcomed many visitors to Chile, and in partnership with the MFA, and Embassy of Chile in London, encouraged many visits to the UK. I am delighted to say that the new British Airways flight direct to London from Santiago, makes visiting a lot easier. One of the most important visits, in January, was that of Lord Price, our Minister for Trade, to further links in trade and investment. Statistics just published show Chile’s leading position in emerging markets for the fastest growth in UK exports of goods and services. The partnership between the Embassy and the Chamber of Commerce helps British business access opportunities here in Chile. Chile’s leading role as a bridge to the Pacific Alliance and others in Latin America is also vital. We look forward to the visit of Minister Valdes and members of Chile’s business community to Chile Day in London, for the sixth year running, on 29/30 June, to discuss our future trade and investment links.
We were also pleased to welcome Mike Penning, Minister for Armed Forces, last November and in the last year we have deepened and expanded our relations with the Defence Ministry and with the Navy, Army and Air Force. I was honoured to participate in the 200 year celebrations for both the Navy and the founding of the Escuela Militar. We have also received British Army expeditions undertaking adventurous challenges such as walking across Antarctica, and motorcycling across Latin America, inspiring many in the process. I could not do the former, but would quite like to do the latter!
Following the President’s visit to London, links between our scientists have grown in Antarctica. Science that is ultimately about the future of our planet. During last year Chile hosted the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. We also celebrated the centenary of the rescue by Piloto Pardo of Shackleton’s men, reflecting on the values and bravery shown and what that means for today. And we look forward to future joint work in Antarctica as we develop our bases and encourage further scientific collaboration.
Scientists were here in Santiago in force in January, during the Futures Congress. A most impressive gathering, by Chile, of some of the world’s top scientists and thinkers, and a number of them, British, to debate our changing world and the contribution of science and innovation. Through the work of the Newton-Picarte Fund, and in partnership with the British Council, and through our wider Prosperity and other work, we have developed a number of collaborations ranging from biotechnology to building information modelling, climate change to cities of the future, illegal fishing to infrastructure. And not with just Chile alone. Chile in the region is also important. We hope to expand our Newton work on a regional basis, particularly with the Pacific Alliance - for example, the recent meeting, held in Valparaiso, with UK experts, on strengthening innovation.
And on innovation, Chilean entrepreneurship was very impressive in the recent ‘Start-Up Games’. UK marine innovation and technology was highlighted in the recent visit of the National Oceanography Centre. And of course technology and innovation plays a very important role in transport. Don’t miss the innovative design and features of the Alexander Dennis double decker bus, which you can see outside the Residence today, and which has been on trial here in Santiago. In fact, don’t miss the bus!
We try to ensure our projects are not just Santiago based. We are developing links on sub-Antarctic research in the Magallanes region; we recently held a seminar on heritage and urban regeneration in Valparaiso; and of course mining, and projects in the north of Chile, are a crucial part of the Embassy’s work. A year ago, you may recall we welcomed the Lord Mayor of the City of London, who also attended Expomin, where for the first time we had many British companies exhibiting. Earlier this month, we were at CESCO week, in discussion with many of the world’s top mining companies, both about the opportunities here in Chile, and the contribution British expertise, British technology and British innovation can make to transform the mining sector, so crucial to Chile’s economy.
We are in a world that is changing. A world that has the horrors of Syria, and the worries of North Korea. A world where the work of the UN has never been more important. A world where relations between countries such as the UK and Chile count. Countries which share similar values, countries which share similar outlooks on the importance of free trade, countries which can work together to try and make both a better world, and a better society for citizens of both our countries.
I am grateful to all of you who have contributed so much to building strong links between UK and Chile. Thank you for your friendship, help, and advice. Thank you too to my fantastic Embassy team for their hard work in the last year on so many different creative projects. So today, in celebrating the birthday of Her Majesty, The Queen, let us celebrate the strength of the links between UK and Chile over the last year and in the year ahead.