- How would you describe your time in the Netherlands?
This has been a fascinating period. The bilateral ties we have – across so many fields – are deep, strong, and personal. I think it is fair to say that our decision to leave the EU was not popular with some people here. I think that what we have demonstrated over the past three years is that the UK and the Netherlands have every interest in remaining strong allies, partners and friends. And that we share the same values.
- On what achievement are you most proud?
I feel so proud of the achievements by my team. The State Visit to the UK by HRH King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in 2018, the first for 36 years, was a memorable moment. Marking the 75th commemorations of the Second World War, including with HRH The Prince of Wales at Arnhem, was incredibly moving. And parachuting out of a plane was… terrifying! I have to admit I landed far less well than the 96 year old veteran who jumped just before me. Standing alongside Minister Bijleveld and the MIVD, making public an attempted Russian cyber attack on the OPCW, was another memorable moment. It has been such a pleasure to work with incredible people in business, law enforcement, defence, foreign and domestic policy, science and innovation, and with the teams who keep our own Embassy and my Residence working so well. I’ll miss it all!
- How do you look back on your time as ambassador during the pandemic of Covid-19?
The pandemic has affected us all, and not equally. It underlines how important kindness and looking out for each other is. Personally, I’ve missed coming into the office and working with colleagues and partners face to face. And it has made it much harder to say farewell in the way I would have liked. But it’s also shown how adaptable we can be, with new technology and creative thinking. It has not slowed us down, and there are some things, like the inclusiveness technology allows, that we mustn’t lose. We do need to build back better.
- How do you look back on your time as ambassador during the Brexit?
It has solidified my opinion that our two countries are close partners, allies, and friends – and have every interest in remaining so. It has been emotional, for both us and our Dutch partners, having to reassess the way we work together. There is no doubt in my mind that we can stay as close, if not closer, in the future: that’s a choice, for both of us – and the UK Government wants to continue to build on its relationships with close allies and partners. Pragmatism has already led to new ideas and structures to make sure important bilateral cooperation can continue. We need to keep this up in the coming months and years.
- With your extended experience, what do you see as the key growth driver for the Dutch-British Business?
These are uncertain times for businesses, and I have had a chance to speak to many of you about it. But I am also struck by how Dutch and UK businesses have always spotted and seized opportunities across the North Sea – and that continues right now. We need to keep dialogue going; with sector organisations, organisations like the NBCC, and policy makers. The Embassy’s trade and investment team is always available to help as well. The UK remains open for business, as always, and is a great market for the Dutch. I have been struck over the past three years by how easy we find it to do business together, even when the external environment is tough.
- What is your advice to our British-members when doing business in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is a great place to do business. The Dutch are natural traders. Get to know the Dutch market well and make use of the drive for development and innovation. Be honest and straightforward- and if you get what may seem like a very blunt response, remember that’s the Dutch way to build a real relationship quickly!
- What are your highlights as a Patron of the NBCC?
I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with the NBCC throughout my time in the Netherlands. You’ve hosted some great events – a personal highlight was your gala dinner at which both trade Ministers Sigrid Kaag and Liam Fox spoke, and that was a reminder of our shared interests in the WTO, which he is now a candidate to lead. And you have always strived to keep your members well informed – beyond UK/EU negotiations, and looking to the future, including in tech, green growth, and the investment climate in both countries. A good example of Anglo-Dutch like-mindedness when it comes to doing business.
- How is the NBCC helping members grow their business?
Together with the Dutch Embassy in London and our British Embassy in The Hague, the NBCC makes sure the right people and organisations are linked to each other. They provide important information from and to businesses.
- What do you see as the main task for the NBCC in the near future?
Focus on the future. There are such strong opportunities for our two business communities to work together – in support of free and open trade; in green growth, green tech, and green finance (the UK will be hosting the next global climate summit in November 2021 in Glasgow); in consumer businesses, including food and drink – witness the huge Heineken investment in the UK in 2018; and in the huge investments we have in each others’ economies. We have an interest in each others’ success. I would urge businesses to join the NBCC organised events, and get involved. We have big shared challenges, and huge opportunities when we work together, including in wider markets across the world. The NBCC must rightly be at the forefront of this.
- What are you looking forward to when moving back to the UK?
My time in the UK will be short and sweet – intensive language training, as I leave for Brasilia and the South America network in a few short months. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends, particularly as travel has not really been possible these past few months.
- What are you going to miss most about the Netherlands?
I will miss Dutch frankness, and humour, and the ease of doing business here. And most of all, I will miss friends and colleagues: they are what has made this wonderful country come alive for me. But what cheers me up is a) that we are so close; b) as two tech hungry peoples, we will find it easier to keep in touch. So please do!