John Marshall (British ambassador in Luxembourg)

“To hear what other people are thinking”

06 Juillet 2017 Interview par
John Marshall
“We want to provide as much certainty as possible to the three million EU citizens in the UK and around one million UK nationals in the EU”, says John Marshall. (Photo: Mike Zenari)

As part of the CEO-Only Summer Cocktail organised by the Paperjam Club on Thursday, July 6th, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Mr. John Marshall (British ambassador in Luxembourg) gives an overview of his diplomatic role.

Mr. Marshall, as UK ambassador to Luxembourg, how would you describe your role towards the private economic actors in Luxembourg?

“The Luxembourg business community is one of many different constituencies in Luxembourg that I am in contact with. As important economic actors I am interested in their views: on the Luxembourg and wider European economy, on how they see the UK and developments there, on all sorts of issues really. Some of the businesses colleagues at the embassy and I are in touch with investors in the UK. These could be Luxembourg companies or companies from elsewhere in Europe or the world who oversee their UK investments from Luxembourg. With them we are interested in knowing how their businesses are developing, whether they have plans for further investment or whether they are encountering any particular problems we can help with. 

We are also on the lookout for companies who may wish to invest in the UK and are ready to provide any support and advice they may need. Personally I spend less time helping companies invest here than I have in other postings, e.g. in Senegal, where I was before coming to Luxembourg. That is largely because UK companies have less need of our help. Europe is a familiar environment, and they generally find it easy to do business here. But as an embassy, we do provide support to UK companies who need local knowledge and information before starting doing business in Luxembourg. The range of sectors is extremely wide, everything from satellite equipment to coat hangers via specific software for the finance industry.  

As British ambassador I am often invited to speak at private sector events to explain the British government’s position, most often nowadays on Brexit. I enjoy these occasions because they provide a good opportunity to hear what other people are thinking. As an embassy we do a lot together with the British Chamber of Commerce – which celebrates its 25th anniversary in Luxembourg this year - and I am sure that will continue with the new chair and council who have just been elected. In most of interactions with private economic actors I am either seeking to understand better how things are in Luxembourg or explaining how things are in the UK. That balance makes for good conversations.

At what occasions do you typically get a chance to engage with Luxembourg’s economic actors?

“Anywhere and everywhere. I often ask for meetings or people ask for meetings with me. I have taken the opportunity to visit a number of different companies to understand the contribution of their sector – whether it be satellites, glass, beer, finance, steel or professional services - to the Luxembourg economy. I get invited to many events: by Chambers of Commerce, by Alfi, the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, the insurance industry or many others. And I regularly meet private sector actors at other events across the city. So there is no shortage of opportunities to meet, and I welcome that.

Brexit is making headlines these days, of course.  What impact has Brexit had on your day-to-day work with the Luxembourg business community? Have you had to adapt some of the existing relationships?

“Brexit is obviously a central part of my day-to-day work and is a topic of discussion in most of the conversations I have with the business community. Sometimes the conversation is on the issue of the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of British nationals living in Luxembourg. We have recently issued a paper setting out our approach to the issue of EU citizens living in the UK. We want to provide as much certainty as possible to the three million EU citizens in the UK and around one million UK nationals in the EU. We want their lives to continue broadly as now.

There is much common ground between the UK and EU positions and we are confident that we can reach an agreement on this important issue early in negotiations. But often, of course, the discussion is about the implication of Brexit on the financial services sector. Much, of course, will depend on the exact nature of the agreement that we reach as regards the future relationship between the UK and the EU27. The UK’s financial services industry plays a vital role in the UK, European and global economies, benefiting customers and businesses around the world, and when negotiations begin, we will be pursuing the best deal possible to ensure this continues. I am confident that post-Brexit the City of London will remain the leading financial services centre in Europe and that the mutually beneficial relationship between the UK and Luxembourg financial services industries will remain close, collaborative and strong. It is in both our interests that it should do so.”