HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
From the radio broadcast of the Shipping Forecast, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in August, to the soaring climax of the Last Night of the Proms earlier this month, Britain’s seafaring heritage informs our whole way of life.
We should not, however, be content merely to revel in the glories of our past. Rather, its triumphs speak of the promise of an equally glorious future as we continue to look beyond our shores to opportunities beyond.
If the UK is to seize the promise and opportunities of Brexit we must – mindful of our heritage – be again, a truly global, seafaring, trading nation.
Around 95 per cent of this country’s international trade leaves or arrives by sea. So forging alliances, striking deals and making the most of the maritime tradition befitting an island nation will be crucial in the years ahead. In Churchill’s famous phrase, we should “choose the open sea.”
In that spirit, I was delighted to play my part in London International Shipping Week, which finished last Friday, with 15,000 expert delegates from around the world discussing the global maritime business at more than 140 meetings seminars and receptions, including in Downing Street itself.
The City of London is a shining jewel in the maritime treasure chest. It remains the biggest centre in the world for the professional, financial and insurance services and the law associated with ports and shipping.
Thanks to our illustrious history, our stable, business-friendly tax regimes and revered legal system, London remains at the heart of the maritime world. Our capital is also the proud home of the International Maritime Organisation, giving us unique access to the key decision makers and an enduring presence in international negotiations.
My mission last week was straightforward – to sell the British economy to delegates from some of the most important maritime interests in the world.
With this intent, I met delegations from the United States, Greece, China, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta. As well as which, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Hong Kong.
The United Kingdom is superbly placed to capitalise fully on the chances which Brexit affords because, far from being treasures of the past alone, our maritime industries are thriving.
They are worth some £14 billion each year to our economy and support a quarter of a million jobs.
Britain is home to more than 10,000 of the most skilled and respected maritime experts, working across all disciplines.Because we cannot afford to be complacent, the Department for Transport is making arrangements for expanding global trade by bolstering our domestic infrastructure. These preparations include the country’s largest road improvement project – the £1.5 billion scheme to improve the A14 and better connect the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich to our markets here.
The delegates of Shipping Week came to London wanting more – more seafaring trade and enterprise, more links with the finest maritime nation in the world, more of the best of Britain. So, echoing the Proms, may Britannia rule the waves!