Confession: I was one of those so-called experts who went around waving scary graphs and warning against the risks of Brexit, a fully paid-up participant in ‘Project Fear’ as Leave campaigners characterised it. As a non-UK citizen (and thus non-voter) I was fairly agnostic and tried to keep out of the larger, more philosophical issues at play during the referendum. My public views, and the graphs I brandished at events leading up the poll, related strictly to FDI. And in that I saw more risks than rewards from Brexit.
In the end, this FDI 'expert' was ignored along with all the others. So, what now?
The UK’s status as a safe-haven investment destination has been thrown into doubt, at least temporarily, and investors face years of uncertainty over what trade deals might emerge, what access to European markets will be maintained, and a lot else besides. One thing I warned in my scare-mongering speeches was that investment agencies in countries such as Germany and Ireland would make hay from Brexit and would have a strong hand to play in poaching investors from the UK if it left the EU. It is too soon to tell how successful these efforts will be, but within hours of the referendum results being announced, we here at fDi heard from a few such agencies that were already drawing up plans to target UK-based firms. Our cover story for this issue details some of these efforts and assesses how foreign investors might view a post-Brexit UK.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the world’s best established investment destination is busy putting its own FDI status under threat, as detailed in our feature. Much attention is being paid to the bombastic proclamations of Republican candidate Donald Trump, who demonises free trade and claims (unrealistically) he will somehow stop American companies from closing US factories or relocating functions overseas. But anti-trade and anti-FDI rhetoric has been rife throughout this long campaign season, on various sides of the political spectrum, and will only worsen as election day draws nearer and as the fight for voters in crucial Rust Belt swing states intensifies.
I guess I’d better dust off my scary graphs and take them Stateside. But unfortunately, the very voters who could benefit most from job-creating inbound FDI projects are the most likely to vote for the candidate who stands to do the most damage to the US’s appeal for inward investment – and, like their counterparts across the pond, are also the least likely to be swayed by the remonstrations of an egghead with a PowerPoint presentation.
Courtney Fingar is editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org