An open letter to UK Members of Parliament at this time of Brexit Crisis!

Dear United Kingdom Members of Parliament,

This letter is a direct plea at a time of increasing national crisis in the U.K.

Brexit is exhausting our business and wrecking the country’s tremendous reputation as an economic powerhouse. The U.K.’s historic stable political climate has facilitated huge investments from companies like Siemens over the years, and we are at risk of losing that critical pillar of economic stability. I know this view is held by many of my colleagues leading businesses here too.

As time has worn on, and with the prime minister’s deal defeated yet again on Friday, this political frenzy has moved us dangerously close to permanent damage for the U.K.

From the outside, it’s very difficult to follow the political ins and outs and the only certainty that remains is that failure to agree a deal or an alternative way forward before 12 April will lead to a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit. Many of you already know this.

The U.K. Office for National Statistics on Friday confirmed investment is in its worst slump since the last recession, and we already know 80% of businesses say Brexit has damaged investment decisions. Worse, the damage this is doing to the country’s hard-won reputation as a serious and stable place to do business is now all too real.

The world is watching, and where the U.K. used to be beacon for stability, we are now becoming a laughing stock. I personally can no longer defend the action of our parliament when reporting to my managing board, making it hard to win support for finely balanced investment decisions that in the end have an impact on U.K. jobs, innovation and the competitiveness of our activities here.

Multiply this by the many such conversations going on in company boards up and down the country with their often overseas investors, and this will not play out well for our economy.

What makes this worse is that the majority of MPs, and many sensible members of the government, understand these arguments. They have no desire to see the U.K. crash out and they know that we need to maintain a close economic and political relationship with the EU through a ‘softer’ Brexit.

Without compromise and action though, we will leave with no deal.

This will certainly lead to short-term economic turmoil, but my big worry is that in the long-term it will create irreparable damage, particularly to manufacturing, and high-tech sectors. That will cripple our hopes of competing in the fourth industrial revolution.

Business was broadly supportive of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May’s government, but it has been repeatedly and comprehensively rejected by parliament. The current approach has failed. It has been clear for weeks, that the only way that this will be resolved is through compromise between the government and parliament.

In this respect, the process of indicative votes which began last Wednesday and will continue on Monday, are a welcome opportunity to see if MPs can coalesce around a way forward. It was not entirely surprising that no clear favourite emerged at the first attempt, but on Monday Parliament must act decisively.

My own view, and following the first round of indicative votes, is that a majority could and should be found for a U.K.-EU customs union — the option that was closest to achieving a majority last week. It is an essential part of frictionless trade and saves businesses billions every year in pointless and unproductive customs declarations.

But this will mean that those MPs that favour a referendum or Norway-style deal, for example, will have to compromise. Ardent Brexiteers must also recognise that they do not have the votes in parliament to force a hard Brexit and must likewise agree concessions if they want to see any Brexit at all.

Parliament must now come together to find a majority view on the future relationship. The government must then respond positively and seek to amend the Political Declaration, and its policy for future negotiations.

It would be deeply irresponsible to simply let the clock run down and then present parliament with an eleventh hour choice of the government’s deal or no deal. If we get to that point the chances of a no-deal Brexit by accident would be dangerously high.

So, my message to MPs is simple. Enough is enough. We are all running out of patience. Make a decision and unite around a customs union compromise that delivers economic security and stability.

People’s livelihoods are at stake, and our reputation as a country for stable and sound business investments could be in tatters by the end of the week if you fail.

This is your last chance to come together to build a new consensus for Britain and then allow us to move on from Brexit, to the many other issues that need so desperately sorting in our country like our industrial strategy and skills agenda.

Please do not waste this critical week!

Yours Sincerely
Juergen Maier CBE, CEO of Siemens UK

First published in Politico.eu

https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-brexit-plan-has-failed-but-a-customs-union-can-unite-mps/

​Post-Brexit Industrial Strategy in action

We are 5 months on from the Brexit vote and the debate keeps rumbling on regarding the options for leaving the EU. I suspect it will not just be months, but years before we really get to understand what our trading and economic relationship with the EU will be, but I am extremely hopeful that beyond the rhetoric, we really can get a good deal that works for the EU and the UK. Only a deal that works for both will be good for our UK economy.

Whilst all this goes on, I have been extremely encouraged by the way business has pulled together post-Brexit to champion initiatives that provide us the confidence to keep investing in this prolonged period of Brexit uncertainty. Sometimes it takes a ‘crisis’ to bring people together and drive with a stronger purpose towards a common goal and for the good of the country.

An area where this is happening, is in us pulling together and working in a much more aligned partnership with Government to create a much stronger Industrial Strategy.

The UK is at a critical point in our industrial history. We have a fantastic heritage at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and now we have an equally exciting and dramatic opportunity to harness the next industrial revolution – the Digital Industrial revolution.  This will bring investment, innovation and skilled jobs back to the UK, powering the future economy. 

We saw the beginning of this exciting revolution happening in Hull today, as the Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark and myself officially opened the Siemens wind power blade factory there.

This is incredibly good news, already having created 700 new jobs and 96% of those recruited from within 30 miles of Hull.

The scale of what Siemens, and our partners ABP, have created is quite unbelievable and needs to be seen to be believed. The picture attached only gives a small flavour of the transformation. In under two years, this site has been transformed to become a modern high value manufacturing centre of excellence from a previous derelict, run-down port that expressed the sadness of the post industrial decline that we have seen so much of over recent decades. 

But, whilst this is exciting and positive, it must only be the beginning. We hope for the creation of many thousands more jobs within this industry over the next decade. We especially hope for the creation of the new digital industries that will be supporting offshore wind power: Drone technology, Robotics, Virtual Reality and even Artificial Intelligence. 

We actually have no option, because for us to continue to bring the cost down for off-shore wind energy and stay competitive we have to deploy such automation and digital technologies. The problem is that this will have an effect of reducing the amount of jobs required in the traditional manufacturing and servicing of wind turbine technology that we have only just created! That is the bad news. But as we can’t, and don’t, want to stop this from happening, we have to balance it.  We can do this by, at the same time, creating the jobs that will develop and supply the new digital technologies, the robots, the industrial drones, the software that will support the deployment of these technologies. The good news is that these will be the new, even higher value, jobs that will over time replace more traditional and repetitive production tasks.

Put simply, we have to create more of the digital enablement jobs that will replace the jobs this technology itself displaces. Unfortunately, making sure this happens won’t be easy. There is a global race to develop the technology that will power this new world of Industrial Digitalisation and we can only get more than our fair share of it, if we develop a clear strategy of how we will develop and grow this new industrial sector. This strategy should be based on: a much higher spend on R&D and innovation; creating stronger and better coordinated ecosystems for research collaboration between academics, large and small business; and, finally, a parallel strategy to develop the skills of the future.

In summary, this Industrial Digitalisation strategy is essential to creating the high tech, high value jobs that will power this new 4th Digital Industrial revolution and if we get it right, it will be the key to rebalancing the economy and raising living standards.  We need to move quickly, but that is for another day.  For now, I would  like to conclude by thanking all of our team at Hull and our Partners for their fantastic efforts in making all what has been achieved possible.