The UK belongs to the G7 group of the world's leading industrial
nations. Since the end of World War II, the UK has followed the
trend away from industrial production towards service industries,
which now account for about three-quarters of national income.
The transition has not been easy, and although the UK is not unique
in this respect - many Western European economies have undergone
a similar process during the past 20 years - a worse situation might
have occurred without the revenues from North Sea oil. The traditionally
strong agricultural sector has suffered a number of serious setbacks,
largely the result of dubious practices which appear to have been
rife throughout British agriculture. These undoubtedly contributed
to two costly outbreaks of disease (BSE and foot-and-mouth) which
have caused havoc in the industry and the loss of billions of pounds
in export income.
Engineering (especially of military products), electronics, chemicals,
construction and textiles are the main components of the industrial
sector. Among service industries, tourism, retails, media, financial
services, telecommunications and computer services are the most
important and have grown rapidly, while heavy industries have suffered
The Conservative government of the 1980s and early 1990s was the
first in Western Europe to dismantle the mixed economy of state
and private owned industries that had become the standard model
for members of the EU. A number of former state-owned industries
including telecommunications, oil, gas and electricity, were sold
to private shareholders, while the Government imposed stronger fiscal
controls and enacted pro-business legislation. Controls on the movement
of capital and on trade were removed. The model has now been adopted
throughout both the industrialised and developing worlds; it has
been maintained and then further extended by the Labour administration
which took office in 1997.
Britain's economic performance in the past few years has been reasonable,
although some cracks are beginning to show as the government has
to plan for a much higher level of borrowing than anticipated. A
slump in manufacturing industry has pushed unemployment to 1.5 million
(5.2 per cent of the workforce). Both GDP growth (2.1 per cent)
and inflation (1.8 per cent) are below the EU averages. The UK's
foreign economic relations are now dominated by the EU (which accounts
for 70 per cent of all UK trade), although there are important trade
links with the USA, the Far East and with members of the Commonwealth.
Europe nonetheless, dominates the economic agenda and the issues
facing present and future governments is the extent to which they
are willing to integrate into the European economy. The focus now
is whether Britain should adopt the single European currency, the
Euro. Although the economy has met the necessary criteria, the Government
chose not to join when the currency was introduced in 1999. The
Government has since remained on the fence; while many business
and political leaders favour membership, there is huge opposition
in the country at large. The conclusion of this debate may be decisive
to Britain's economic future.
Businesspeople are generally expected to dress smartly (suits).
Appointments are made and the exchange of business cards is customary.
A knowledge of English is needed.
Monday-Friday 09:00/09:30-17:00/17:30 hrs.
The following organisation can provide advice: The
British Chambers of Commerce, 65 Petty France, London SW1H 9EU
(telephone: (020) 7654 5800
Conferences and Conventions
The UK conference industry is well organised with several publications
comprehensively listing every possible kind of venue (including
dedicated centres, hotels, universities, race courses, football
grounds, manor houses, castles and theatres).
Regional and local tourist boards also promote their own areas vigorously.
Birmingham and London have an international reputation; there are
several excellent conference venues.
There are many towns with facilities of near comparable size, and
comprehensive back-up services are available everywhere. Bristol,
Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle are among the cities offering
a variety of venues, whilst smaller towns such as Inverness, Chester,
Llandudno, Salisbury and York offer uniquely attractive environments
without sacrificing efficiency.
The large political parties of the UK hold their conferences in
seaside towns during the winter; locations include Blackpool (home
to the famous Winter Gardens), Bournemouth and Brighton. All areas
of the UK are easily accessible by rail and air from London. The
British Conference Destinations Directory gives regional details
and is published by the British
Association of Conference Destinations, 6th Floor, Charles House,
148-149 Great Charles Street, Birmingham B3 3HT (telephone: (0121)
212 1400; fax: (0121) 212 3131; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.