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Brexit won’t shut doors, UK ministers tell Jaitley

British ministers have told India’s visiting finance minister Arun Jaitley that their country’s exit from the European Union will not make it more protectionist.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2017 16:05 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Brexit,UK ministers,finance minister Arun Jaitley
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson (left) and international trade secretary Liam Fox (right) with visiting Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley at the Foreign Office in London on February 27, 2017.(AFP)

British ministers have emphasised to India their country will become more open and not protectionist after leaving the European Union, finance minister Arun Jaitley has said.

New Delhi had accepted the message from London though talks on a free trade agreement could begin only when Britain completes its withdrawal from the EU, Jaitley told Hindustan Times. India will have its own set of priorities when the fine details of such an agreement are worked out, he said without listing them.

Since Britain voted to exit the EU in June last year, Prime Minister Theresa May and several of her ministers have travelled to New Delhi for initial talks on a free trade agreement with India, one of the top target countries for a post-Brexit Britain.

Easier mobility of Indian professionals (theso-called Mode 4) is one of the key areas New Delhi has been insisting on in the long-stalled EU-India free trade negotiations. Brussels believes there will be better chances of reaching the agreement after Britain leaves the EU.

Jaitley said: “As far as the UK is concerned, my meetings over the last few months, what they have repeatedly emphasised and I accept that message, is that unlike what is happening in certain other countries, Brexit should not be interpreted as a protectionist exercise…Quite the contrary.

“The policy message I have got is an extremely liberal one. They would like to expand and open up more,” said Jaitley, who was scheduled to discuss the upcoming Economic and Financial Dialogue in New Delhi with chancellor Philip Hammond here.

Insisting that India remains one of the most open economies amid uncertainties and slowing of the global economy, Jaitley said Indian investors saw opportunities in a post-Brexit Britain, just as British investors were in India.

He told a meeting of the UK India Business Council and FICCI: “When the world is turning increasingly protectionist, India is opening up…India has the potential for a growth rate higher than what we are achieving today.”

He added, “You have much greater support for reform than any other time in history. The idea of a protectionist economy has not been an issue for India. We’ve opened up and it’s been more welcomed than opposed.”

First Published: Feb 28, 2017 19:42 IST