In 1585, a small band of brave British explorers landed in eastern North Carolina to establish the Roanoke Colony, North America’s first permanent English-speaking settlement.

More than 400 years have passed, but the Tar Heel State continues to enjoy a trusted and special relationship with the United Kingdom. On Sept. 7, Womble Bond Dickinson’s Raleigh office had the honor of hosting the new UK Consul General, Andrew Staunton, for an informative discussion on the present and future of the UK-NC trading relationship. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Rodney Maddox, Chief Duty Secretary of State, also were among the guests at the event.

North Carolina exported more than $1.3 billion worth of goods and services to the UK in 2017 alone, according to the US Census Bureau. These exports ranged from industrial machinery to pharmaceuticals to agricultural products. With the UK in the process of exiting the European Union, Staunton and other officials are working hard to reaffirm and bolster the nation’s traditional trading relationships.

Staunton was joined at the table by Andrew Terrell, the British Consul to North Carolina. Terrell said, “There is no better diplomacy than business,” reiterating the idea of the growing mutually beneficial relationship between not only the Southeastern US but more specifically North Carolina and the UK.

Staunton spoke candidly about his thoughts on policies in the UK and the “all-consuming” issues surrounding Brexit during his visit to Womble Bond Dickinson. He provided insight regarding what the next few months will look like leading up to the UK’s exit date from the EU on March 29, 2019.

He also explained the potential consequences if the UK and EU do not reach an agreement for their terms of separation, as well as the contingency plans that they are putting in place if that should happen.

One of the most pertinent portions of the talk dealt with US and UK relations. Even without the EU’s involvement, the UK has the 5th largest economy in the world. As such, it would be beneficial for the US to maintain and grow its relationship with the UK. Part of Staunton’s goal is to foster support for UK businesses looking to expand their US footprint.

International tax attorney Rick Minor, a former advisor to the Luxembourg Government, said the recent changes in the UK have created uncertainty, but they also may generate significant opportunity for cross-border transactions.

“We appreciated Mr. Staunton’s comments on the economic development outlook for the UK for US direct and indirect investment opportunities,” Minor said. “In terms of tax policy, we expect the UK to continue to calibrate its tax rules to keep the UK attractive as a platform particularly for US tech companies to further invest into Europe. Many EU jurisdictions, the UK included, are studying the impact of the US tax reform on US multinational location decisions. The UK may have a first mover advantage in that respect given the timing of Brexit. One aim would be to have a sustainable preferential IP regime that complements the US GILTI (global intangible low taxed income) regime.”

Staunton succeeded the outgoing Consul General, Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, in early June of 2018. Staunton has a wealth of experience in economic affairs, protecting British interests amidst economic crisis in both Greece and Ireland. Staunton is the senior UK government representative in the Southeast United States, responsible for fostering relations with Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Andrew Staunton