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Christmas Presents

THE TRADE VIEW

What role does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) play in the modern day?

Nigel Vere Nicoll is Chief Executive of Atta, which serves travel companies in the African travel sector in 37 countries.

I am climbing the gilded staircase of at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — FCO to you and me. As I progress up the great stairway, the words of AA Milne ring in my ears: “Halfway down the stairs, is a stair, where I sit.” So I stop, exactly halfway up, and reflect on my surroundings, and there really isn’t any other stair quite like it. The three-storey Grand Staircase is a rich and regal statement designed 150 years ago to showcase Britain’s status as the world’s greatest empire. Standing on my step, I look up to see the huge, circular dome, decorated by two dozen women dressed in Romanesque mantles, holding shields to represent the countries that had diplomatic relations with us in the 1860s. At this distance, I can’t tell if any refer to my patch: Africa.

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