How the UK’s resilience in winning FDI creates a window of opportunity


In 2020, the number of foreign direct investment (FDI) projects secured by the UK fell by 12% from 2019. In any normal year, such a decline would trigger major concerns about the UK economy and its attractiveness to overseas investors. But 2020 was not a normal year. Viewed against an even bigger fall of 13% in FDI projects into Europe as a whole, and the indications from our investor surveys in autumn 2020 that 30% of planned investments in the UK might be cancelled or paused, the actual outcome was significantly better than expected.

In fact, the 975 projects secured by the UK in 2020 was only 10 fewer than the European market leader, France – a much smaller gap than the difference of 88 projects in 2019. And, in a difficult year beset by COVID-19 and rumbling uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations, the UK’s regions and nations demonstrated the underlying resilience of their offer to investors. Despite the overall 12% fall, London and the South East were the only UK regions to suffer double-digit declines in projects, with Northern Ireland, Scotland, the East of England, the North East, the North West and the South West all bettering their previous year’s performance.

  • Vaccine roll-out prompts investors to see the UK as having Europe’s best pandemic recovery plan, creating opportunities for growth.
  • Investors now see the UK as the most attractive place in Europe for future investment.
  • London regains title as Europe’s most attractive city from Paris; Scotland and regions hold steady in attracting projects.

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