A Free Trade Agreement between India and the UK could be easier to accomplish at a bilateral level following Britain’s exit from the EU, according to Indian industry leaders. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) led its annual delegation to London this week to take stock of ‘The Future of UK-India Economic Relations’ and said there was general consensus that Brexit opened up the possibility of new opportunities.
“With Britain’s departure from the EU, India will have to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with the UK which may be easier to accomplish at a bilateral level… This could well be the best era for our industries to collaborate,” CII Director-General Chandrajit Banerjee said, adding that there was “political drive and willingness” on both the sides.
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His views were echoed by CII President Naushad Forbes, co- chairman of Forbes Marshall Private Limited. “India-UK relations will sustain with or without Britain’s relationship with the EU and will only thrive and prosper in the years ahead,” Forbes said.
Pointing out that India had been negotiating an FTA with the EU for over nine years and had been stuck in a couple of areas of concern for India, he said, “Many of these issues will instantly go away between India and the UK. It would be an agreement that would be almost made in heaven”.
UK Minister of State for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said such a bilateral agreement would be on the agenda and sought to reassure Indian industry leaders against any fears over the business climate in the UK following Brexit. “We have so many strengths in our bilateral relationship, on which we must now rapidly build… It has been very frustrating that the EU-India FTA has been so slow in making progress and has suffered several pauses. I sincerely hope that tighter bilateral trade agreement between the UK and India can make rapid progress,” he said.
“I want to reassure you about any uncertainty as the UK enters a new phase of its relationship with the EU… more than ever we are going to be an outward looking, adventurous, optimistic country,” Johnson said. Indian High Commissioner to the UK Navtej Sarna said the political underpinning for the economic relationship between India and the UK was strong and that uncertainties should not have any adverse effect as business “thrives of uncertainties” and a “planned roadmap” for the relationship already exists.