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Sri Lanka-UK relations to remain strong regardless of Brexit outcome

April, 11, 2019

Almost three years on from the Brexit referendum, the future relationship between the UK and Europe remains unclear. As the EU and the UK are important trade partners of Sri Lanka and India, the Brexit process could affect mutual relations.

The speakers, Mr. Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England; Mrs. Grace Asirwatham, Ambassador-Designate of Sri Lanka to Belgium and the European Union; and Dr. Ravinder Kaur, Director of the Centre of Global South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen, offered different perspectives on how the Brexit process may play out over the coming months and the potential implications for South Asia. It was noted that, while a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have a negative economic effect on South Asia, Sri Lanka’s relations with both the UK and the EU are likely to remain strong regardless of the terms of the UK’s exit.

Speaking at the Foreign Policy Round Table hosted by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI), the presenters noted that Sri Lanka has maintained strong trade and investment ties with the UK, as well as the remaining members of the EU, for many years. This is unlikely to change after Brexit and continuing to support these links was deemed essential for Sri Lanka’s future prosperity, even as it attempts to position itself as a hub in the Indian Ocean. The UK’s departure from the EU could also present opportunities for Sri Lanka. In particular, it was noted that it may lead to greater focus on strengthening the Commonwealth. As an extremely diverse grouping of nations, a renewed focus on improving economic ties between members would provide lucrative opportunities for Sri Lanka.

The roundtable held on 4 April 2019, was supported by The Asia Foundation. The discussion, moderated by LKI’s Executive Director, Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja, included comments from Mr. Ravinatha Aryasingha, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Thorsten Bargfrede, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka; Mr. Tom Burn, Deputy Head of the UK Mission in Sri Lanka; as well as other diplomats, media and private sector representatives.

LKI is a think tank that analyses Sri Lanka’s international relations and strategic interests, to provide insights and recommendations that advance justice, peace, prosperity, and sustainability. The Institute reflects the vision of the late Hon. Lakshman Kadirgamar by promoting the country’s intellectual profile in foreign policy research and engagement. For more details visit www.lki.lk

Photo caption: (From left) Mr. Geoffrey Van Orden, Member of the European Parliament for the East of England; Dr. Ravinder Kaur, Director of the Centre of Global South Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen and Mrs. Grace Asirwatham, Ambassador-Designate of Sri Lanka to Belgium and the European Union