While a significant amount of media attention is focused on emerging economies, the UK still stands tall as of the world’s predominant powers. In fact, according to the Henry Jackson Society’s 2019 Audit of Geopolitical Capability: An Assessment of Twenty Major Powers, the UK trails only the US in the classification and has “Global Power” status. The report says, “For such a small cluster of islands with a modest national base, the UK has developed the structures and instruments with which to pack a formidable punch.”

The takeaway for aspiring business leaders? If you are looking for a prime destination for international business studies, the UK boasts a compelling case.

THE best country for business?

Brexit may come with a fair bit of uncertainty, but one thing is clear: the UK’s business climate is strong. In 2019 -- for the second consecutive year -- the UK claimed the top spot on Forbes’ annual roundup of Best Countries for Business. Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi says of the findings, “The UK has a globalized economy that is more open than most across the world in terms of trade, investments [and] capital flows.”

Not only that, but the UK was also the only country out of 161 to secure a top 30 spot across all 15 of the metrics used in the rankings, including property rights; innovation; taxes; technology; corruption (the lack of it); freedom (personal, trade, and monetary); red tape; investor protection; workforce; infrastructure; market size; quality of life; and risk.

And speaking of Brexit, supporters argue it will not be an obstacle, but an opportunity for the UK to grow even stronger. In naming the UK’s economy the seventh freest in the world and third in Europe, the Heritage Foundation’s 2019 Index of Economic Freedom asserts, “The UK’s 2019 departure from the European Union has prompted policymakers to address structural deficiencies such as lackluster productivity growth. The resilient economy’s recovery from the financial crisis was aided by effective rule of law, an open trade regime, and a well-developed financial sector. The already liberal labor market can be made more flexible after Brexit. The UK has one of the world’s most efficient business and investment environments and will soon be open to expanded global trade relationships.”

Furthermore, even industries which have been especially wary of Brexit may be pleasantly surprised. For example, while small business owners have voiced concerns that Brexit would have a detrimental impact on their own businesses, some experts say that they will come out ahead.

“Micro businesses have a great chance to capitalize on the changing conditions that will follow Brexit,” Crunch CEO and Founder Darren Fell tells Forbes. “Unencumbered by management structures, property or heavy staff costs, micro business are quick to adapt and may also escape the worst of any immediate legislative impact. The UK’s micro business community is increasingly service-driven and those in technology consultancy, IT and change management are likely to see fast-growing demand both before and after Brexit, as corporates seek help adapting, complying with new legislation and even relocating,” he continues.

Even the pound’s deprecation in value may turn out to be a win for small businesses as a weaker pound means more investors will be looking inward.

Sairah Ashman, Global CEO of brand consultancy Wolff Olins, speaks of opportunities for brands, too. “There’s a huge opportunity for businesses to steal the high ground in 2019. It’s time for those of us in the private sector to take serious stock of the way we run our companies, treat employees and engage with customers,” she proposes.

Specific strategies for post-Brexit brand building include embracing activism, involving customers and employees in decision-making, and investing in the potential of people.

Have an interest in starting your own business, meanwhile? Brexit may mean more possibilities for you, too. “Another positive aspect of economic downturn, which is not often spoken of, is the growth prospects it creates for entrepreneurs and enterprise. Savvy entrepreneurs and small business owners have thrived during periods of financial instability, largely due to being leaner and more flexible than more established organizations so they can quickly and effectively adapt to changes in the market,” SmallBusiness.co.uk suggests.

A brand like no other

While Brexit may have dinged the UK’s image, the UK’s sterling reputation and legacy make it more than strong enough to withstand the challenge. In fact, the UK maintained its position as one of FDI Intelligence’s top-ranked countries in terms of brand value in 2018. Especially noteworthy? That it experienced 20 percent brand growth even after the referendum.

Brand Finance CEO David Haigh say, “[This] shows that perceptions of Brexit go against the economic reality. What the exact scenario and consequences of exiting the EU remains to be seen, but both current market conditions and economic forecasts for the coming years reaffirm the UK's ability to make the most of its post-Brexit future.”

The UK also comes out ahead in terms of soft power. According to strategic communication consultancy Portland’s Soft Power 30, based on measures including digital economy, enterprise, education, culture, engagement, government, and polling, the UK is not only number one in the world, but also an “upward mover” in 2018, having held the number two spot in 2016 and 2017. The foundation upon which its ongoing success is built is unassailable soft power assets, which include everything from its language to its royalty to its football teams. “The UK’s creative, cultural, financial and technology sectors keep the world interested in what is happening in Britain. Moreover, the UK is home to some of the world’s most successful higher education institutions that attract students and academics from across the globe,” reveals the report.

Making the Most of Business Studies

“While striking out alone in the current geopolitical context looks exceedingly risky, the UK has the resources, global connections and infrastructure to make a success of it,” concludes Portland. Business studies in the UK offer access to all of these same advantages -- not to mention the country’s exceptional higher education system. And while doing business in the post-Brexit UK won’t be without some obstacles, an abundance of opportunities wait, too.

For enterprising international business students, studies in the UK offer not only a front-row view of the post-Brexit action, but also the opportunity to be part of it.