British MPs ask govt. to make India a trade priority post-Brexit

A Commonwealth study estimated that UK-India FTA would enhance 2-way trade by 26%.

The Dollar Business Bureau 

Four UK’s Members of Parliament (MPs) have asked the British government to make it a priority to strengthen trade relations with India after Brexit. 

During a debate on Thursday in Westminster Hall of Parliament on Commonwealth Trade, Jake Berry, a Conservative party MP led calls to focus on India as the UK exits the European Union (EU). 

“We need to open trade deal talks with India. We will be helped significantly by the Indian diaspora of 1.4 million people, which creates strong cultural ties between our nations, and by the fact that India is currently UK's largest export market in the Commonwealth. The Government must make it a priority next month,” Berry said. 

He cited a latest Commonwealth study that predicted that the UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would enhance two-way trade by 26% and estimated that exports from UK to India could surge by 50% a year, describing it as a big prize for both Britain and India. 

Shailesh Vara, an Indian-origin MP and co-chairman of Conservative Friends (CF) of India, said that the engagement after Brexit should cover smaller nations of the Commonwealth. 

“In 2015, Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and Singapore accounted for about 70% of exports from UK to the Commonwealth nations and 65% of imports from the Commonwealth nations. Therefore, it is vital that we just do not focus on larger countries of Commonwealth, how big though they might be,” Vara said. 

Barry Gardiner, a Labour party MP from the constituency of Brent North in London which has a large Indian-origin population, termed India as an old friend of the UK and it should be nurtured. 

“However, it would be unwise to think that in the UK we may just pick up where we have left before joining the Union. The world, the power balance has now changed and the world trade nature has been transformed beyond recognition,” he cautioned, while quoting the remarks of India’s High Commissioner to the UK, Y K Sinha, on the mobility of professionals as important to any trade deal between India and UK. 

The response of the government during the debate was given by Greg Hands, Minister for Trade and Investment, who said that the Commonwealth countries are more significant than ever.

The Dollar Business Bureau - Feb 24, 2017 12:00 IST