Since Brexit, many on both sides of the British coast have been wondering what the proud island kingdom still stands for in the world. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to fill this vacuum with the empty phrase “Global Britain”. To this day nobody really knows what that is supposed to be. Since the beginning of the year, his successor Rishi Sunak has been dreaming of an “innovation nation” full of enterprising inventors who, supported by world-class universities, should be at the forefront of technological progress.
The insolvency of Britishvolt, the battery start-up that wanted to build a “gigafactory” for the transformation to electromobility in northern England for more than four billion euros, shows how far Britain is from this. Batteries for more than 300,000 electric vehicles should be produced there per year.
There are many reasons for bankruptcy. A major reason, however, is that economic ambitions and political realities in Great Britain have not been compatible for some time. A gigantic battery factory for a country that has neglected its industry for decades and isolated itself in terms of trade policy by leaving the EU could not go well. If you want to be at the forefront of new technologies, you need a market that is as big as your ambitions.
It’s not as if Britain has nothing more to offer. On the contrary. Indeed, the Kingdom is home to some of the best universities in the world, has cutting-edge research, is a major power in life sciences and, with London, remains one of the most important and dynamic financial centers in the world.
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However, the Conservatives, who have been in power for twelve years, have not succeeded in forging a coherent location profile from these strengths after Brexit that not only stands for tradition but also for the future. Britain today is associated more with royal family feuds, a sick healthcare system, mass strikes and political chaos than with forward-thinking innovations.
Sunak lacks a convincing vision
Prime Minister Sunak has calmed down the country after the chaos of “Trussonomics” last year. So far, however, he has not been able to prove that he is more than a pragmatic crisis manager and that he can show the wandering country a new direction. Johnson had at least one idea with “Levelling up” to bring the economically torn country back together. With Britishvolt, this plan also initially failed.
Maybe that’s why it was a good thing that Sunak didn’t go to the World Economic Forum in Davos. What message would he have wanted to send on the world stage? And perhaps it is also a signal that opposition leader and Labor leader Keir Starmer held the British flag high in the Swiss mountains and was asked by top managers from all over the world about his plans for the future of Great Britain.
More: Battery start-up Britishvolt is insolvent.