A no-deal Brexit will not ‘fundamentally impair’ trade between the UK and Singapore: MTI

"Ministry of Trade and Industry’s assessment is that trade between the UK and Singapore will not be fundamentally impaired," said its MTI minister.

Singapore's trade minister Chan Chun Sing Source: Bloomberg

Bilateral trade between the United Kingdom (UK) and Singapore is unlikely to be ‘fundamentally impaired’, even if a no-deal Brexit happens to the UK, said the Singapore minister for trade and industry (MTI) Chan Chun Sing in a response to a question during parliament on Monday.

Mr Chan was responding to a question from member of parliament Desmond Choo, who had asked how Singapore would be hit by a no-deal Brexit. Mr Choo also queried on how Brexit will affect the ratification and implementation of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA).

Attributing the substantial trade and investment linkages between Singapore and the UK, with the many businesses operating in the other's markets across sectors such as pharmaceuticals, professional services and consumer goods, Mr Chan commented: "MTI’s assessment is that trade between the UK and Singapore will not be fundamentally impaired."

Even so, a no-deal Brexit could weigh on consumer and business sentiments in the UK and EU, with potential negative effects on global growth, he admitted.

Singapore is prepared to work with the UK to apply for the EUSFTA in a UK-Singapore context, which could form the basis of a future trade agreement between both countries, Mr Chan said. The ratification of the EUSFTA and EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement (EUSIPA) is on track and is not affected by Brexit, he added.

The UK is an important economic partner of Singapore, and Singapore is keeping a ‘close watch on Brexit’, just as other countries are, Mr Chan said.

Britain’s divorce deal from the EU remains set for March 29th, this year.

Maybe scenarios for Brexit, suggests Singapore’s MTI minister

A scenario which offers the greatest predictability and stability while minimizing disruption to businesses would be an agreement on a withdrawal, with an implementation period lasting till December 31st, 2020, Mr Chan suggested. Within this period, the UK will continue to be functionally treated as an EU member state and remain as a party to the EU’s international agreements, he said.

Another scenario that could pan out would be the postponement of UK’s formal departure from the EU. In this case, the prospect of an imminent no-deal Brexit would be diminished, though there may be a period of continued uncertainty, said Mr Chan.

A third scenario could be a ‘hard brexit’ or a no-deal situation, in which the UK will no longer be a party to the EU’s agreements with third countries after the deadline. The EUSFTA will then no longer apply between the UK and Singapore, said Mr Chan, but he added that the change ‘would not impact our trading relationship with the UK as the current tariff and non-tariff regime for Singapore companies trading with the UK are based on World Trade Organization terms which would continue to apply’.

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