Back in January I wrote here that the Chinese are stealing a march on the US, and everybody else, in building trade relations with Cuba.

“In the coming years Cuba is set to become one the fastest growing economies, and it’s a mere 90 miles form the US coast.  It’s madness that the US is not moving to secure this economic miracle for itself, with both hands.”

I predicted that tourism and trade would grown even faster than the so called experts predict.

And lo it has come to pass!  If these numbers are not a wake up call to dozy Uncle Sam I’d be astonished.

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Breaking news over the weekend in the Sunday papers – the UK’s going to let ordinary citizens in fracking areas reap a share of the proceeds.

It happens in the US, where there’s been a massive energy and economic revival thanks to shale.  Why shouldn’t it happen here? Families could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds.

There’s potentially hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of gas, and hundreds of billions of barrels of oil, sitting right under the UK.  The country desperately needs an energy bonanza and to stand on her own two feet economically. Mark my word, a country without energy security will eventually be another’s slave.

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So it’s been a year since Cuba and the US restored diplomatic ties.  The US is trying hard to re-engage and Cuba is listening. But until the embargo is properly lifted, the diplomatic winter is not going to turn into a nice Cuban summer.

The country is coming in from the cold and the US flag flies again outside its embassy.  There’s still no US ambassador yet though.  Obama hasn’t appointed one, and in the meantime the post is filled by an interim Chargé d’Affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

Since ties were restored in July last year, Obama has lifted a number of trade and travel restrictions using the President’s executive authority.

Right now, tourism is technically still illegal under the terms of the US embargo.  The rollback of restrictions allows 12 exemptions to the ban, all under the banner of ‘purposeful travel’.  So medical travel, religious travel, or cultural tourism are all allowed.

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Back in 1987 BP, one of the great global oil majors, found oil at the base of the Surrey Hills just outside the M25.  The nodding donkeys at the Brockham X1 oil well have been quietly pumping Portland oil for the UK economy for 14 years now.

But did they miss something?  I think so.

Brockham X1 is a deep well. Nearly 7,000 feet. BP drilled straight through the the Kimmeridge limestones that were the secret to this year’s spectacular success at Horse Hill, only five miles away near Gatwick Airport.

Horse Hill was fondly nicknamed the “Gatwick gusher.”  That’s pretty accurate because it really did gush.

Nearly 1,700 barrels of Britain’s finest black gold gushed to surface at Horse Hill. Open up the choke to full bore and it’s anyone’s guess what it would have gushed. The biggest oil hit for a single well in British onshore history.

At 41 API, it’s an even better brew than North Sea Brent at 38 API. That means (for the non oil folk amongst us) better quality and better price.

And it wasn’t just BP who may have missed the potential of this extraordinary deposit.  That other global major Esso actually drilled not one but two wells at Horse Hill in the 1960’s and didn’t realise the potential of the Kimmeridge limestones either. They never even tested the limestones!

Cock up?  Or conspiracy?  There is indeed an argument for both.

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I popped home to Monaco this weekend. Great weather, magnificent food; just the place to see out the Brexit storm engulfing Britain.

The Côte d’Azur is its usual sparkling best. The sea temperature is just right – once les petitis ballons have adjusted of course.

And while the guards at the Palais Princier in Monaco are still sticking to their bizarre handover time of 11:55 AM it’s always worth a gander at old Boney’s personal belongings in the Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens in the west wing.

Although Brexit will undoubtedly affect me in some shape or form going forward for good or for bad, I’m an EU and Australian citizen and not British, it’s been fascinating to see the fallout from the historic Brexit vote.

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Well well well.  The UK is gearing up to vote leave if the polls and yesterday’s Sun front cover are to be believed.

I’ve been saying all along that Britain will be better off out of Europe.

From a business perspective it’s a no brainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against international cooperation.  It’s a good thing.

The UK should and must cooperate with other nations to strengthen trade, security, and so on.

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I was obviously delighted to see Australia performing at this year’s Eurovision.  In fact we nearly won – the wonderful Dami Im was leading the voting for most of the night.

What on earth was Aus doing anyway, performing at the Eurovision?  Shome mishtake shurely?  Well, no.  Australia was invited to enter last year as a one off, to celebrate Eurovision’s mission of ‘building bridges across the world.’  And it went down so well that the committee invited us back a second time round.

But well done Ukraine for pipping everybody else to the post.  And bad luck Britain, although to be fair I don’t think you Pommies were taking it very seriously this year, as usual.

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Ever been on a cruise?

No nor have I.  Can’t say the idea appeals to me, but obviously some people like it.

On Monday evening the first cruise ship in nearly 40 years arrived in Cuba, from Miami, with 700 yanks, and 6 Cubans on board.

It has now joined the 2 regular cruise ships that visit Havana weekly from the Caribbean. More tourists jamming the old town coffee shops.

When I asked one of my Cuba partners what they thought of the cruise ship from Carnival arriving, the response was –  it’s the first “ferry service.”  A cruise is it not. Maybe there’s something in that comment?!

The ship very nearly didn’t sail.  A big fuss blew up because of a historic Cuban law that banned people born in Cuban from arriving on the island by boat.  To comply with the law the cruise operator Carnival refused to sell tickets to Cuban Americans.  And this prompted a flurry of protests, a discrimination lawsuit, and eventually John Kerry waded into the debate.

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Apart from the fact that Gatwick Airport is floating on a mega pool of oil (at Horse Hill 1.2 miles away) bold and visionary thinking is urgently required by the UK Government on airport expansion.

Before it’s too late.

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Your average management consultant wouldn’t know a Kimmeridge limestone if it cracked him on the bazzer with a cricket bat.

Good management consultants are few and far between.  The world famous John Caswell of Group Partners is one of them.  John’s brilliant – better than brilliant.  That’s why he advises the bosses of some of the biggest corporations on the globe as well as world leaders.

And I’ve also been impressed by Ernst and Young over the years.  So I read with interest the latest EY report on the now famous Horse Hill oil strike at Gatwick Airport..

Ernst and Young are the third big global consultancy to look at Horse Hill and what it all means.

When somebody smart, in a suit, with a degree from MIT or Harvard pipes up and says it’s 124 Billion barrels of oil in the UK’s Weald Basin, what do these numbers actually mean?

They’re just numbers.  Or are they?

Numbers are important because they inform and guide important strategic decisions, management plans and operational considerations.  But they’re still just numbers.

The experienced oil men will put these into the context of the bigger picture.  Is it recoverable?  At what flow rate?  What’s the quality of the oil?  Project forwards?  What are the long term strategic, political and economic factors?  Bottom line – what is the potential upside for the business?  And the risks?

But at the end of the day it’s also about more than that.

It’s about jobs.  People’s livelihoods.

EY reckon 300- 1,500 jobs in the Southeast of England, and 990 – 5,600 jobs nationwide as a direct consequence.  And the multipliers that attach to real jobs. Just think about that for a moment.  We’re talking about real people and families like yours and mine, folks.  Families sustained, mortgages paid, children educated, dreams realised.  These aren’t empty numbers.  This is wealth created.  Real impact.

I’m sick and tired of whingers moaning about how shitty the economy is or how expensive things are.  Get out there and generate wealth.  Create something new. Add value.  Make it happen!

EY reckon the tax man’ll get £2 – £18Bn in tax.  Think about that!  That’s money going into the exchequer – to every man, woman and child in this green and pleasant land.  Funding the NHS.  Paying for kids’ education.  Helping the next generation.  Best case scenario is £18Bn which will help pay for schools, hospitals and pensions.  So when the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that Brexit will leave a £36Bn hole in the public finances (a highly dubious claim by the way as I think any hole will be short term) – I say let’s fill that hole and generate new revenues.

And let’s not forget about community impact.  We’re not talking about shale and fracking.  This is keyhole surgery.  Low impact.  £70m – £550M worth of community benefits.  It’s about being a good neighbour and actually enhancing the community in which the oil industry operates.  The industry has done this admirably for decades in Scotland.  If you want a good example go and look around Aberdeen – it’s a beautiful city, well kept, with a myriad of community projects all benefitting from the economy and the input of Aberdeen people contributing something – not only for themselves and their families but also for their county and country.

So next time somebody tells you there’s between £7.1 billion and £52.6 billion ‘GVA’ – Gross Value Added economic impact sitting under The Weald just stop for a moment and think. That’s the prize.

But it’s not just a number.  It’s people’s lives.





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