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Rachel Reeves and Jeremy Hunt tell Davos Britain is open for business

By Imogen Shaw
18 January 2024
Technology, Media & Telecomms
Public Affairs

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to make a pitch for Britain's economic prowess as a tech hub at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. This visit marks the first appearance by a British Chancellor at Davos since 2019, signalling a renewed commitment to showcasing the country's potential on the global stage in the face of criticism from the Labour Party regarding the government’s engagement with the international business community.

Indeed, Hunt follows in the footsteps of Labour counterpart Rachel Reeves, who has been in Davos engaging business leaders throughout the week. Notably, she participated in a business breakfast hosted by crypto exchange Coinbase this morning.

Scheduled to meet with influential global CEOs and investors, Hunt’s visit is designed to push the message that the United Kingdom stands at the forefront of science and technology, presenting a lucrative landscape for international investments. A Treasury press release accompanying the Chancellor's trip underscores his mission to emphasise the UK's leadership in cutting-edge industries and its readiness for international investment.

In a panel event in which he is due to appear featuring Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Hunt will champion the UK's ambition to emerge as a science and technology superpower. In a statement released by the Treasury, he said "We boast some of the best and brightest businesses in sectors of the future like digital technology and life sciences. It's these areas of strength that are going to drive growth across the UK economy in years to come."

The Chancellor's presence in Davos also addresses previous criticisms from Rachel Reeves, who lamented the lack of senior political representation from Britain at the World Economic Forum last year and has criticised the Chancellor for arriving late to the World Economic Forum this year, following the government’s crunch vote on the Prime Minister’s Rwanda plan in the House of Commons yesterday evening. Hunt's visit aims to rectify this perception and demonstrate the government's commitment to actively engaging with the global business community.

As the Chancellor navigates this moment on the international stage, his focus on positioning the UK as a hub for innovation and investment underscores a strategic vision for the country's economic future. Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are interested in tech innovation and have leaned into underlining the UK’s potential as a growth hub for innovative businesses.

Nonetheless, the government still faces the challenge that given the enduring state of the polls and a fast-approaching general election deadline, it is very likely they will not have the time to deliver on this vision.

It is, however, a vision shared by the Labour Party, which has been largely successful in its bid to reinvent itself as “the party of business”. Under Keir Starmer, Labour has been determined to underline its commitment to the UK business community, and Reeves has made much of her promise that, if she becomes Chancellor, she will work to make the UK “the best place in the world to start and grow a business”.

The message Labour has been seeking to get across to the business community is that boosting private sector investment is key to the party’s growth strategy, and a future Labour government would seek to work with fast growing sectors like tech to bring jobs and prosperity to Britain.