Britain needs to get its act together and make the first move towards a new trade agreement with India, a senior Indian diplomat in the UK has said.
Dinesh Patnaik, India's Deputy High Commissioner to the UK, told a gathering of the Indian Professionals Forum (IPF) at Chatham House in London yesterday that India had a choice to make post-Brexit between a bloc of 27 nations that comprise the European Union (EU) or a single nation that is breaking away.
"If you look at it from an Indian perspective, unless the UK gets its act together, why should we get interested? We need the UK to take the first step, he said, adding that trade in goods, services and free flow of people are the key elements that must come together for any new trade pact.
"Unless all three come together, you cannot have a trade agreement. And, the UK is still not ready for the third part. We are making the stage ready for the first two, but the third part is the most important, he noted.
Patnaik's views on a potential new trade agreement came in response to the UK's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, raising the prospect of an ambitious new free trade agreement (FTA) with India.
The senior member of the Labour party indicated that such a new deal would involve EU "partners", in an apparent reference to the Opposition party's stance in favour of Britain staying within the EU's Customs Union.
He said: We have a different way of thinking about the relationship with India than the current government. Britain's trade with India is under-performing, relative to the potential. There are gains from trade that are not being won by either side.
There is a significant opportunity for Britain and India agreeing a new free trade agreement, with our European partners involved as well. That is our ambition."
McDonnell made a plea for Indian investments by reassuring entrepreneurs that his party's socialist views were not in conflict with the needs of business.
"We believe in working with Indian entrepreneurs for our joint benefits. The private sector does not require no government, but good government...the Labour Party represents wealth creators at every level, he added.
The event, titled Post-Brexit UK and India: Perspectives for Business and Innovation', was part of a regular dialogues series organised by IPF, a non-profit think tank for Indian professionals related policy advocacy issues set up earlier this year.
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