‘Post-Brexit, UK and India can move ahead on the trade deal’

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

GEOFFREY VAN ORDEN, UK Conservative Party Leader

Hopefully EU will allow Britain good access to the common market, says UK Conservative Party leader

Geoffrey Van Orden, UK Conservative Party Leader and Member of the European Parliament (MEP), spoke to BusinessLine on the EU Referendum and its impact in an emailed interview. Van Orden, who is also Chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with India, said UK will now be able to trade freely with India. Excerpts:

Did you see Brexit coming? What’s next for the UK?

No one on either side expected this result. I advocated a vote to ‘Remain’ on the grounds that the UK had carved out an exceptional position in the EU and it could have the best of both worlds. We now enter a period of uncertainty which will result in a new British Prime Minister by September, and a fraught relationship with the EU which refuses to learn lessons and which seems bent on deeper integration – precisely the opposite of what so many of the citizens of European countries want.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail and the UK and the EU will come to a satisfactory arrangement to guarantee the UK a good level of access to the single market while able to restrain ‘free movement’. 

The pound witnessed its sharpest ever fall following Britain’s exit. Do you see UK’s economy going through a period of instability now? 

There is turbulence in the financial markets at the moment but there are indications that this will settle down. After all, it will be up to two years before we actually leave the EU and the agreement on withdrawal will hopefully maintain access to the single market. In any case, the economy is in a strong position thanks to the steps taken by the Conservatives since 2010 to reduce the deficit, cut taxes and create jobs.

How do you see your bilateral ties shaping up with your partner countries? 

I have always been very clear about the fact that Britain’s role in the world is not defined by the EU. Now is the time to put even more effort into our economic and political relationship with countries beyond Europe, particularly in the Commonwealth. As well as strengthening our armed forces, we are opening new embassies around the world and developing new strategic relationships with emerging powers such as India. 

How do you see your ties with India shaping up?

The UK’s relationship with India is essential to our prosperity and security. It should be one of the most natural relationships in the world. I hope that the Conservative government will continue to strengthen ties with India. I have been very frustrated by the lack of progress in an EU-India Free Trade Agreement but now perhaps the UK and India can move quickly to establish a bilateral arrangement.

As two great democracies that have suffered from terrorism and wider threats, our security partnership is also vitally important and more should now be done to lift this to a new level of cooperation.

Do you see investments from India now dwindling?

Britain and India are major trade and investment partners. We will soon be outside the EU’s tariff barrier and will be able to trade freely with India on our own terms. Many of the key economic, infrastructure and social projects that are a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi are also areas of British expertise, just as Indian businesses have flourished in Britain.

How will you align your political and strategic interests now with the EU? 

Britain is both a European and global power. That hasn’t changed. Britain will continue to be at the table with other European countries at NATO and the G7. The facts of geography and shared security interests in meeting common threats mean that the UK will continue to work closely with its European neighbours whether it is in the EU or not. And it is in the EU’s interests to cooperate closely with Britain.

Published on June 30, 2016

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