UK Politics

Reality Check: Is Britain the most global developed economy

Boris Johnson saying: Britain is the most global of all the developed economies

The claim: Britain is the most global of all the developed economies.

Reality Check verdict: Boris Johnson was talking about the high proportion of UK citizens living abroad. By this definition, Britain is more global than other G7 countries. But looking at standard economic indicators, like flows of trade and investment, Britain is clearly not the most global.

The government wants to usher in a new era of "Global Britain", forging closer ties with the rest of the world after Brexit.

In a speech on the subject, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Britain is "the most global of all the developed economies".

He went on to say the proportion of Brits living abroad is larger than for "any other large rich nation". This is true according to OECD figures.

The Foreign Office confirmed to BBC Reality Check that this is what Johnson meant when he spoke about Britain's economy being global.

Millions of Britons do live and work abroad, especially in Australia, Spain, the USA and Canada.

This definition of a "Global Britain" seems to equate globalisation, which Johnson described in his speech as a "miracle", with higher levels of international migration.

We could look as well at more usual economic indicators.

Consider trade. The value of Britain's exports - the goods and services it sells to the world - is similar to France's, and much lower than Germany's.

This is true whether we look at the absolute value of exports or their value as a proportion of national income.

Britain's exports are a lot lower than most European countries as a share of GDP, and only fifth highest in the G7 group of big rich economies according to 2015 World Bank figures.

If we look at imports, Britain comes fourth in the G7.

If we are judging how global an economy is by the level of trade it does, Britain is not even close to the top.

We could look instead at the flow of investment by foreign companies.

By this measure, Britain is more global than France and Germany. But it only has a fraction of the USA's foreign investment and slightly less that Canada's even though Canada's economy is smaller, according to 2015 World Bank figures.

When Britain leaves the EU, the government hopes to retain strong ties with the European Union while forming closer bonds with the Commonwealth and the United States. This is the "Global Britain" ministers hope to bring about.

It is true that Britain is the most global of the G7 countries in terms of citizens living abroad. But looking at more usual definitions, other developed economies are far more global.


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