“Britain is no longer a surly lodger – we’re going to be a good neighbour,” opined one on the many commentators on the outlook as the new government was formed over the last 24 hours. He’s right, but this is not the half of it.Around the world, not to mention at Boris Johnson’s own gaff, there was surprise as well as some wry smiles. Who’s have thought – apart of course from Theresa May. But despite the spite and rancour, now thankfully increasingly behind us, of the Brexit campaign, his appointment as foreign secretary indeed was an inspired choice. It’s one among many, from a prime minister who is showing an astonishing flair for wo/man management across the board. Despite his faults, and he has plenty, Johnson is perhaps the greatest salesman our politics have ever seen. What’s more, he has a deep grounding in the UK’s history and a real vision of it’s place in the world, equalled by few except perhaps his hero Winston Churchill. Yes, he can be light-hearted and often just plain silly, but his engaging manner and bumbling creates room for manoeuvre – for as flexible and sharp an intellect as you’ll find anyplace. Meanwhile, what emerges already, within hours, from the still developing picture is an the opening of a new door – an opening to the world. A realisation that, for all the handwringing we’ve seen Britain is not just “open for business” or “making the best of a bad job” as so many have said and written – through gritted teeth. We are now fully open to the world. We are ready to take a position in it – not just a good neighbour but a leader. The UK is right at forefront of the real, rather than just EU-manufactured, opportunities and challenges that are before us. The fundamentals, not the petty (even at EU level) politics. Because the world continues to not just turn, at the same rate as ever, but change at a rate faster than ever before. With or without the EU, Britain is at the forefront of that ongoing, accelerating, revolution, with some of the brightest and most creative in the world. A new environment, opened up by technology on a global scale, is now just beginning to bite here – offering opportunities that never existed before. We are at the forefront. Leaving the EU not only does not change or even dent that – it throws open new opportunities that the EU only ever obscured and sought to suppress or “own” – as politicians and bureaucrats almost always do. There were all the costs from the friction and lost opportunities from an organisation that takes 44 months to make decisions (and never got around to creating the mythical single-market in financial services which was amongst it’s chief selling points). But as the clouds of self-doubt and uncertainty, along with the largely self-inflicted “economic shock” cooked up to a perfect pitch in George Osbourne’s Treasury, dissipates, and the sun of a new vista appears, it’s gradually dawning that we are in charge of our own destiny – and more. We can talk to, and trade with, the whole world again. One that’s opening up in new ways as change continues to accelerate, throwing up new opportunities as these things invariably do. It’s real and visceral right now. We are out there already and planning the third in a series of major inward and cross-investment visits with China right now that will, we hope and believe, lead to an ongoing trade and investment relationship with the very heart of China. Not the old closed China, but the new, open and visionary China which has looked at the changes technology and financial openness and transparency are bringing to the world and are embracing them far more heartily and wholeheartedly than we have. Read more from Barry James:
- World leader: Why the UK is setting the global agenda for fintech and financial innovation
- After Growth Accelerator: Time for the disruptors to design the future of real business?
- Fintech and the future: New FCA CEO must fuse regulation and innovation
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