Business

UK, India to have 'deep discussion' on economic ties

NEW DELHI: India and Britain yesterday talked up their prospects of developing a new trading relationship, as their finance ministers met in New Delhi to prepare for the UK's exit from the European Union (EU).

British finance minister Philip Hammond flew in to New Delhi for talks with his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley, days after UK's PM Theresa May triggered the start of the Brexit process after last June's referendum vote to quit the EU.

Mr Hammond played down the risks of a "hard Brexit", in which Britain would lose access to the markets of the EU's other 27 nations if the two sides cannot reach a consensus deal within a two-year deadline.

At a news conference after a joint economic and financial dialogue, Mr Hammond said: "We hope to be able to negotiate a deep and special relationship with the EU that will allow us to go on trading and investing in each other's economy, but at the same time allow us to rebuild our relationships with our partners and allies around the world."

India, the world's fastest-growing large economy with a population of 1.3 billion, offers the UK a massive opportunity but it is not known to favour free trade.

Mrs May had a cool reception on her first visit to India last November, with PM Narendra Modi stressing the importance of trade and freedom of movement for India's skilled workers.

Still, Mr Jaitley struck a positive note. "The UK, post-Brexit, is looking at a different level of relationship with India. And there's a huge aspiration in India itself also, to add to, and improve on, this relationship."

No formal negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement would be possible until Britain has formally left the EU, but Mr Hammond said the two sides would have a "deep discussion" in the meantime.- REUTERS

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