Belfast Telegraph

42,000 new jobs forecast through regional growth pushing foreign investment

More than 42,000 new jobs are expected thanks to regional growth which helped drive a record number of foreign investment projects into the UK last year, according to a report out.

The amount of foreign direct investment schemes Britain attracted jumped by 20% in 2015 to hit 1,065, which is set to create the jobs, according to the annual UK Attractiveness Survey by accountancy giant EY.

It added this figure was the highest number of projects that has been brought to the UK in a single year since the report began in 1997.

Growth was driven by the North West which saw projects more than double to 118%. Scotland had its most successful year, rocketing by 51%, while the West Midlands saw foreign investment activity lift by 46%.

The report, for which over 440 international firms were interviewed, said the UK accounted for just under 21% of all the foreign investment in Europe, ahead of Germany, France and Spain.

Foreign investors said they were attracted to the UK's quality of life, culture, education, stability of social climate, telecommunications, and labour skills.

The European Economic Area - which includes the 28-nation EU bloc as well as countries such as Switzerland and Norway - hit a record 27.5% of all the investment into the UK last year.

This saw the European region overtake the North America Free Trade Area - the US, Canada and Mexico - as the most important trade region for foreign investment projects into the UK since the survey began.

However, the US remained the largest single country to invest in the UK.

The survey also said projects from China jumped by 79%, while ventures from India lifted by 58%, "reflecting the Government's objective to forge stronger bonds with the largest emerging market countries".

EY chairman and UK & Ireland managing partner Steve Varley said: "The UK's performance in attracting foreign direct investment in 2015 was nothing short of stellar."

However, when the report asked investors how they expected to UK to fare over the next three years only 36% say they expect it to improve compared with 54% last year, the lowest score since 2010.

Mr Varley said: "It is possible that the upcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the EU is also weighing on investors' minds.

"It is certainly the case that EY's research demonstrates that any deterioration in the terms on which UK-based businesses can access the European Single Market would be a concern for investors."

The reported also highlighted that not all UK regions acted as magnates for foreign investment last year, with projects in Northern Ireland slumping by 62%, while Wales saw a 2% slip over the period.