India, UK to cement ties with or without Brexit deal

Britain is looking for a trade agreement with New Delhi which could be worth up to £100 billion
Last Updated 20 December 2020, 03:25 IST

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but little has changed since then as both sides agreed that many things would stay the same for 11 months - till December 31, 2020 - to allow leaders time to reach a final deal.

The two sides need to agree to a new set of rules before the deadline on how to live, work and trade together. However, things are far from settled.

While the UK was in the EU, companies could buy and sell goods across borders without paying taxes. If there is no trade deal, businesses will have to start paying these taxes, which could make goods more expensive. Officials are also looking for some agreements on areas like airline safety, medicine and the sharing of security data.

The leaders of the two sides extended the talks again last week as there is disagreement on many fronts, including the three thorny issues of possible unfair business practices, fishing rights UK waters and the complicated case of Northern Ireland — the only part of the UK to have a land border with the EU.

Brexit supporters are upbeat as they feel that leaving the EU will give the UK more freedom to strike bilateral trade deals around the world with countries like India — which is one of the leading EU trading partners.

Possible mega-deal with India

Meanwhile, the UK is looking for a trade deal with India which could be worth up to £100 billion. If it becomes a reality it would be the biggest Brexit trade agreement signed so far. Paving the way for moving towards this economic opportunity, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited India earlier in the week and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders discussed the huge potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-Brexit world.

On the other hand, India is eager to embrace the UK as a bilateral trading partner and Modi said admitted that he was looking forward to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India for the Republic Day celebrations next month.

“Excellent meeting with Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State of FCDOGovUK. Discussed the vast potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-Covid, post-Brexit world,” Modi tweeted.

India wants 360-degree roadmap

Modi is also calling for an ambitious and outcome-oriented 360-degree roadmap covering trade and investment, defence and security, migration and mobility, education, energy, climate change and health, in order to tap the full potential of the bilateral relationship.

India and the UK are already working together on Covid-19 vaccine production. India’s Serum Institute will produce over a billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

The doses manufactured by the Serum Institute will then be distributed across the world, even for the poorest of the poor via the global Covax initiative, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Gavi - the vaccine alliance.

With only a fortnight left before the end of the Brexit transition period, India is certain to be a crucial partner for the UK in pushing forward its business agenda. The UK-India trade and investment relationship which is already worth around £24billion and supports over half a million jobs across in the UK alone is all set to get a major boost when Johnson lands in New Delhi next year.

(Published 20 December 2020, 03:25 IST)

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