Five years ago, almost to the day, I arrived in the great city of New York to take up my post as British Consul General. Very shortly I return to a country that's voted to leave the European Union, something few in the mainstream would have even imagined in 2011. Most of the headlines in the last week have been fire and brimstone, but here, far from the madding crowd, I see a picture distinctly less bleak.
Since 2011, it's been a privilege and an honour to promote the UK in New York City and across the tri-state area. In 2012, I was delighted to see New Yorkers embrace Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee at a fun run we organised in Central Park. They shared in our excitement at hosting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They welcomed Prince Harry in 2013 and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2014. They've embraced (and given countless awards to) our major cultural exports - from Downton to Bond, Wolf Hall to Sherlock, Adele to Dame Helen Mirren. In these instances and more, I've witnessed first-hand how unshakeable the bonds are between our countries.
The EU referendum has divided the UK. But it's important to remember that we are an inclusive and welcoming country - and that did not change overnight on June 23rd. To be clear, yes, the country voted to leave the European Union. But we are still very much part of Europe. Regardless of the referendum outcome, the deep ties we enjoy with our friends across the continent, forged in the era of unprecedented peace that followed the EU's creation, will remain.
Over the last few years I have been proud to promote Britain's economy as one of the strongest advanced economies in the world, and that didn't change on June 23rd either. Our financial system is substantially more resilient than it was when I landed in Manhattan five years ago, and we are very well equipped to weather the volatility we now face.
Great Britain is true to its name - it is GREAT - and I am absolutely convinced that we will continue to thrive and prosper on the world stage. We still very much want the UK to be the easiest place in the world to trade with. As I've led the operations of our trade and investment agency, UKTI, across the US, my team have had in Britain's business-friendly policies a real asset. Since 2011 we have supported 1,500 US companies setting up or expanding into the UK as well as 20,000 British companies doing business in this country. That's a phenomenal amount and I'm certain that it will continue to grow in the coming years, providing the outstanding UKTI USA network with even more opportunities to show how valuable their work is.
When I return I am rejoining the private sector as the Chief Operating Officer of Blippar, a visual discovery app that brings the world to life through augmented reality and machine learning. Founded in London, it has a significant presence in the US and is a poster child for the collaboration between the UK and US tech scenes. We need more of these success stories and the right environment for the transatlantic relationship to thrive for many years to come. I am confident that the UK tech story, a source of pride over the last few years, will lead the way in showing the world that the UK is the centre of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.
When a vote is as close as it was on June 23rd there are clearly going to be many disappointed people. It is the way we react as a country that will truly define the outcome of this referendum. Now's the time to come together, with an attitude of optimism and confidence. 51.9% of the country voted to leave and 48.1% wanted to stay, and this close result will no doubt be reflected in the negotiations conducted with the EU in the months ahead as we all work towards the best possible outcome for the UK, our European friends, and the entire world. That's what we all need and I know that the UK's outstanding diplomatic service (the FCO), an organisation I have been so proud to be a part of, will rise to the occasion and play a critical role in the coming months.
Change is coming the UK's way - as indeed it has many times throughout our history. And just as we have done before, we will show great resolve, confidence and pragmatism as we shape our future destiny. Thank you New York for an unforgettable five years.
Danny Lopez, British Consul General in New York, July 2011-July 2016Suggest a correction