This is the greatest time in a generation to invest in the United Kingdom, currently a sea of stability in the turbulence of European economies.
Key indicators point to economic growth bolstered by continuing low interest rates, realistic wage settlements and a favourable corporate tax regime.
Inflation fell to just 0.5 per cent in December and is likely to stay low thanks to tumbling global commodity prices, further reducing pressure on interest rates.
Unemployment is falling, too: from 6.2 per cent last year to a predicted 5.5 per cent in 2015. Universities are full (many are expanding) and business confidence is high according to a raft of surveys published at the start of the year.
Sustainable growth could hardly be better starred: Supermarket price wars and tumbling oil prices are leaving people with more disposable income; as is modest wage growth of 1.3 per cent last year.
For some, the journey to the UK has already begun. Silicon Valley investors are now buying into Silicon Roundabout companies, which are thriving in a once forgotten part of London.
There is a vibrancy in the air across most business sectors. A dynamism dormant in the darkest years of the downturn has returned giving excellent opportunities. The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is now predicting growth of 3.1 per cent, an increase on the previous estimate of 2.5 per cent.
Why the UK? In two words: Economic stability. A political consensus exists around the need to foster growth and attract inward investment. Corporation tax will be reduced to 20 per cent from April, the lowest in the G7 and joint lowest in the G20.
The new ‘Patent Box’ rules mean corporation tax of just 10 per cent applying to the profits from developing patents and other intellectual property. There are also flexible and competitive tax regimes for multinationals on their UK profits.
There is an austerity in public finances to manage, but no Euro to leave, no unrest on the streets to cause alarm.
It may seem different. But appearances are deceptive. The UK has combative politics and media. Anxieties should not be confused with inaction
For example, HS2, a massive rail infrastructure project that will link up a swathe of major business conurbations is approved in principle by all the major political parties.
Politicians in the UK, unlike some other European countries, are finding the balance between curbing cost pressures on businesses whilst helping to support living standards. There is no reason to believe this will end, whatever the outcome of the general election in May. The confidence that this policy has built up within the business community is likely to remain.
Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of most developed economies. They will need to grow markets or risk being taken over.
UK companies, disciplined and battle scarred by the longest recession in 25 years, are good opportunities for takeover, merger or investment. Many are struggling to grow organically, but have borne down hard on costs.
There are other good reasons to come to the UK. It also has the second largest labour market in the European Union, with strong skills and a flexibility that is being encouraged. The Government used its last Autumn Statement to remove National Insurance, an employer’s tax, for anyone taking on apprentices under the age of 25.
In addition to investment relief, there are also ‘enterprise zones’ offering reduced taxes, simpler planning rules and other financial benefits.
For anyone thinking of investing in the UK, now is the time to do so. It has rarely looked this good.