Here’s why India might not get a priority trade deal with the UK after Brexit


  • If and when Brexit ever takes place, the UK’s immediate priority will be to secure quick free trade agreements with a number of select countries.
  • India, however, might not be on that list, according to UK’s Foreign Office Minister, Mark Field.
  • Field told the UK Parliament that India wasn’t among the “first-tier” of countries that the UK was looking to sign a post-Brexit trade deal with.
  • His reason? The unease of doing business and as a consequence, the time it would take to negotiate an agreement.

If and when Brexit ever takes place, the UK’s immediate priority will be to secure quick free trade agreements with a number of select countries like Australia and Japan.

India, however, might not be on that list, according to media reports citing the UK’s Foreign Office Minister, Mark Field. Field told the UK Parliament that India wasn’t among the “first-tier” of countries that the UK was looking to sign a post-Brexit trade deal with.

His reason? The unease of doing business and as a consequence, the time it would take to negotiate an agreement.

Without naming names, Field said that a number of a British companies have run into operational hurdles in India such as trade disputes, some of which have required international arbitration.

There could be another reason. Unlike agreements with other countries, the UK’s trade treaty with India will likely require concessions from the former on the issue of visas and immigration for skilled workers. India has been insistent on the UK lifting barriers to skilled Indian workers. Hence, this will likely prolong trade talks.

Nevertheless, Field’s remarks should worry the Modi administration.

The Indian government has been appreciated for its business and economic reforms in recent years such as the bankruptcy code and indirect tax regime, leaping 53 places to 77 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings in the last two years. Clearly, there’s a lot more room for improvement.

India’s total trade with the UK last year came in at around $25 billion, making the UK India’s 15th-largest trading partner, with $13 billion of imports and $12 billion of exports to the UK.

In April 2018, the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi signed £1bn ( ₹91 billion) worth of bilateral agreements as a precursor to a free trade treaty.


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