Sunak praises ‘highly skilled’ immigrant business chiefs at investment summit

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers the keynote speech at the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace (PA)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers the keynote speech at the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace (PA) Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers the keynote speech at the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace (PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK was open to foreign business talent despite Tory pressure to cut record levels of net migration.

Mr Sunak rolled out the red carpet to hundreds of global investors for a major summit aimed at attracting funding and jobs to the UK, delivering a “sales pitch” to highlight the opportunities on offer.

In a speech to open the summit at Hampton Court Palace, Mr Sunak highlighted the UK’s low rate of business taxation – despite official forecasts suggesting the overall tax burden will reach a post-Second World War high.

Mr Sunak’s comments about the contribution made by foreign business chiefs came just days after official figures showed net migration reached a record 745,000 in 2022.

Global Investment Summit
Global Investment Summit Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Global Investment Summit at Hampton Court Palace (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Prime Minister has said the figure is too high and has hinted at further action to bring it down, but in his speech to global business chiefs he insisted the UK was open to international expertise.

He said: “We don’t have the monopoly on talent in this country and we recognise that nearly half of our most innovative companies have an immigrant founder.

“So if you are an innovator, an entrepreneur, a researcher, you should know that the most competitive visa regime for highly skilled international talent is right here in the UK.”

He highlighted the high potential individual visa which allows someone who has graduated from a top 50 global university to come to the UK for two years to explore, work, study or invest – “nothing like that exists anywhere else in the world”, Mr Sunak said.

“When I say that this country can be the best place in the world to invest in to do business you should believe me because of three big competitive advantages that we have – our low tax approach, our culture of innovation, and our people.”

He added: “The purest expression of this Government’s economic philosophy is that people and businesses make far better decisions about their own money than any government could.

“And I believe that allowing you to keep more of the return on your capital, our country becomes more competitive as a place to invest, grow and create jobs.

“And make no mistake, we are cutting taxes. Not only do we have the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7.

“Last week, we announced that we would make full expensing permanent. That means you can write off the cost of many capital investments in full. It makes our capital allowances regime one of the most generous in the world and it was the biggest business tax cut in modern Britain.”

The Prime Minister said there was “positive momentum” behind the UK economy as around 200 chief executives gathered at Henry VIII’s former palace.

Bosses including Stephen Schwarzman from Blackstone, Amanda Blanc at Aviva, David Soloman from Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan Chase were attending the gathering, aimed at attracting financial support for UK projects.

Before the summit, the Government said a total of £29.5 billion had been committed by investors, triple the sum raised at the last global investment gathering in 2021.

Australia’s IFM Investors will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Department for Business and Trade with the intention of investing £10 billion over the next four years for large-scale infrastructure and energy projects.

BioNTech, which developed the mRNA-based Covid vaccine with Pfizer, has committed to a new lab in Cambridge, as well as a centre of expertise for artificial intelligence in London.

Ministers also announced plans for a new expert panel to look into how to best create a UK corporate re-domiciliation regime to make it easier for foreign firms to move here.

The Government has hailed the opportunities for thousands of jobs to be created as a result of the new investments.

A reception will also take place at Buckingham Palace, hosted by the King, in a sign of the attention being lavished on the chief executives.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the UK economy is “doing well despite significant headwinds”.

She told Sky News: “We are dealing with the same problems that many other countries around the world are dealing with.

“Investors who I hosted at a reception yesterday were telling me about the concerns they have in the US, in France and so on.”

The focus on economic growth comes after an autumn statement where the Office for Budget Responsibility downgraded the forecasts for the coming years.