Brian Wilson: Brexit or not, UK must look outside the EU

I spoke this week at an event organised by the Department of International Trade and Scottish Development International to focus attention on exporting to Latin America, writes Brian Wilson,

The statue of Christ the Redeemer overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (Picture: Christophe Simon/AFP/GettyImages)

There was a healthy audience for high-level speakers from the big economies in the region – Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru.

Perhaps interest was encouraged by Brexit – on vague grounds that if we are outside the EU, it might be prudent to look elsewhere. But Brexit or not, it makes sense to focus more on the rest of the world.

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Ninety per cent of growth in the next decade will come from outside the EU. That does not make it less important but reminds us of a big world out there, open to our goods and services. That’s certainly true of Latin America.

On my travels, I was often reminded how much ground has been conceded where British companies were huge players.

Barely one per cent of Latin American imports come from the UK. At some point, we left them to the economic mercies of the United States – which is not their preference.

Scotland has great success in Latin America with whisky and wherever there is offshore oil. But we could do a lot more.

Do we educate our children to think of trade as a route to prosperity and great careers? For Latin America, teaching more Spanish in our schools would be a good starting point.

There are, after all, 437 million Spanish speakers in the world.