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Britain’s Johnson hails May Brexit speech

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 09:44 GMT, Jan 18, 2017 |
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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Wednesday (January 18) termed Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit speech as positive for the UK and the European Union (EU) and hoped of boosting ties with India with the help of a free trade agreement.

Johnson’s comments came after arriving in New Delhi for the second annual Raisina Dialogue, a geopolitical gathering sponsored by India’s foreign ministry and the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank, which is competing for attention with the higher-profile World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

May on Tuesday (January 17) said Britain will quit the European Union’s single market when it exits the EU, in a decisive speech that quashed speculation she would seek a compromise deal to stay inside the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Setting out a vision that could chart Britain’s future for generations, May answered criticism that she has been coy about her plans with a direct pitch for a clean break, widely known in Britain as a “hard Brexit”.

May promised to seek the greatest possible access to European markets. But she also said Britain would aim to establish its own free trade deals with countries far beyond Europe, and to impose limits on immigration from the continent.

“I think that the Prime Minister set a very powerful, very positive vision yesterday for how we can…. (unclear) not just benefit our friends in the EU but also drive growth in the rest of the world. One of the points I will be making here in India is that we think we can do free trade deals which will benefit for both our countries, both Britain and India as well,” Johnson said.

While Britain cannot sign trade deals with third countries until it is outside the EU, the government is keen to hold preparatory discussions.

May had visited India last November and offered New Delhi a possible improved visa deal and kicked off talks on boosting trading links ahead of Britain’s departure from the EU.

Bilateral trade between India and the UK in goods and services has moved sideways in recent years, totalling 19 billion pounds ($23.7 billion) in 2014, when Britain ran a deficit of 1.5 billion pounds.

Britain contributes to about 8 per cent to India’s foreign direct investment and in turn India is the third largest foreign investor into the UK.