Brexit will likely lead to a “far higher level of engagement” with Britain, India’s finance minister said today during a visit by his British counterpart aimed at boosting trade.
Arun Jaitley and British finance minister Philip Hammond discussed various aspects of the bilateral relationship including a possible post-Brexit trade deal, a partnership in financial and technology sectors and funding for Indian infrastructure projects.
Britain has made clear its desire to boost trade with India, the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
“Ever since the Brexit referendum took place, it has been clear to us through our communication with the government of the United Kingdom that post-Brexit, (it) will look for more trade, more open trade and more trade arrangements with India,” Jaitley told a joint press conference.
“Obviously these can be formally discussed and formalised after Brexit takes place. But it probably is going to imply a far wider and far higher level of engagement between the two countries.”
The British government last month formally gave notice of its intention to leave the European Union, triggering two years of exit negotiations.
While the benefits to Britain of a trade deal with India are evident, sealing one will be no easy task. The country has been negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU as a whole for the best part of a decade.
Despite their historical ties dating back to the colonial era, trade between Britain and India in 2015 was relatively low at $14 billion — smaller than the volume between India and Germany.
But after taking office last July British Prime Minister Theresa May’s first bilateral visit outside Europe was to India.
Hammond insisted that Brexit did not mean his country wanted less trade with the EU.
“I don’t think there is anybody in the UK that voted to leave the European Union because they wanted to do less trade with the 27 other member states in the EU,” he said.
“So we’ve made that decision that we will not be part of the structure of the EU, but we’ve also made very clear that we want to negotiate the maximum possible open trade relationships with the EU.”