Expert suggests UK should look at countries outside EU for post-Brexit strategy
A leading Indian-origin trade expert on Monday called on the British government to look at Brexit as more of a global event and make trade talks with countries like India central to the UK's post-Brexit strategy.
Shanker Singham, the Director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank and author of a new report titled 'Plan A+: Creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK', foresees a post-Brexit UK-India trade deal as time-consuming but "feasible".
"This plan offers a comprehensive approach which shouldn't be considered a 'Plan B', but rather a 'Plan A+' for Brexit," said Singham.
"Brexit has been too narrowly thought of as the role of the UK in the EU, whereas the reality is Brexit is a major global event. A G7 country is embracing independent trade and regulatory policy for the first time in 40 years – an unprecedented situation. This is where the Brexit Prize lies," he said, in reference to his new report released on Monday.
Singham, a former trade adviser to the US government and now a prominent pro-Brexit voice in the UK, highlights that the European Union (EU) had failed to achieve a free trade agreement (FTA) with India due to hurdles that the UK could overcome in negotiations, which must start now so that a deal can be clinched when Britain was formally free of the economic bloc's regulatory requirements in a few years.
"Negotiations will herald opportunities to discuss helping to modernize areas of India's economy and lower the barriers that limit competition for various Indian sectors," it adds.
According to the IEA analysis, the contours of a post-Brexit trade deal between India and the UK would involve providing better legal and financial services access for the UK, allowing UK law firms to establish and practice law in India, increasing foreign ownership in the insurance sector and lowering tariffs for scotch whiskey.
On the UK side, Indian tech companies would be offered trading conditions that allow its professionals to move more freely to the UK.
"The UK's interest will naturally be in selected numbers of highly skilled workers, and the numbers involved would be very small," the IEA report notes.
Besides India, the IEA highlights the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Gulf countries, and China, as other countries of focus for a more proactive bilateral trade approach by Britain.
The report comes amid ongoing tensions around Prime Minister Theresa May's so-called Chequers plan, which offered a common rulebook approach to future ties with the EU once Britain had left the economic bloc.
"We have looked at Brexit in the wrong way, and in so doing we have hampered our ability to get a good deal with the EU. We must execute an independent trade and regulatory policy in order to capture gains from this process, and also to ensure that we have a better framework for negotiations with the EU," said Singham, who believes the Chequers plan needs to be abandoned.
His analysis lays out unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral pillars to maximize the UK's gains and its chances of a good agreement with the EU and argues that now is the time to reset the EU-UK negotiation – in a wider global context – to advocate an advanced free trade agreement, with maximum regulatory recognition.
The report, co-authored by IEA's research analyst Radomir Tylecote, also makes a series of recommendations about what initial moves the UK could make to realize the benefits of leaving the EU.
It has won the backing of leading pro-Brexit politicians in the UK, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former Brexit minister David Davis – both of whom had resigned from the UK Cabinet over May's Brexit plan.
Johnson described the proposals as an "exciting way forward" because it would enable the UK "to do a big free trade agreement with the European Union, but also to do free trade deals around the world".
However, Downing Street criticised the new report as not offering credible solutions to some very sticky issues such as avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland – between EU member-state Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the UK.