Britain is open for business, says Treasury official visiting S'pore

Ms Ellison says there has been a rush to try to "pigeonhole" Britain by talking about other nations and the EU deals they have struck.
Ms Ellison says there has been a rush to try to "pigeonhole" Britain by talking about other nations and the EU deals they have struck.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Britain's Financial Secretary to the Treasury played trade envoy on her visit to Singapore this week.

Ms Jane Ellison told The Straits Times on Tuesday that one priority of the Treasury, Britain's economic and finance ministry, was to tell longstanding partners such as Singapore that "Britain is open for business".

"We have important partnerships within the European Union, but we also have very important partners outside the EU - that's one of the reasons I'm in Singapore. This is a very important and longstanding relationship," she said.

"Ministers are going out, talking to our friends and partners to give them reassurance post-Brexit (referendum) that Britain is approaching (the process) positively."

Ms Ellison added that there has been a rush to try to "pigeonhole" Britain by talking about other countries and the deals they have struck with the EU.

"Britain will strike its own unique deal reflecting our economic situation and the nature of our economic strengths," she noted, citing the country's favourable ease of doing business and high employment, adding that "we are not going into Brexit negotiations from a position of weakness".

LONGSTANDING RELATIONSHIP

We have important partnerships within the European Union, but we also have very important partners outside the EU - that's one of the reasons I'm in Singapore. This is a very important and longstanding relationship.

MS JANE ELLISON, Britain's Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Ms Ellison, whose ministerial portfolio is focused on tax, said corporate tax is less affected by Britain's exit from the EU than other areas.

"We've always had member-state competence over our corporation tax rights, our business tax regime. That's not something that's as affected by us leaving the EU as perhaps some other areas where our arrangements are more harmonised."

After the Brexit referendum, former chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne had discussed cutting the rate further but there have not been any changes so far.

Ms Ellison suggested that corporate tax could give investors a measure of confidence.

"We've just legislated to take corporation tax headline rate to 17 per cent by the end of Parliament... so people can see a clear journey across the lifetime of this Parliament on that."

The British government has given little away as to its negotiating position. Ms Ellison acknowledged that the government was "conscious of people who are hungry for detail", but added that there was a "good degree of understanding" that "we can't be rushed into saying something over-hasty too soon".

She noted that the autumn statement, which will be delivered by new Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond on Nov 23, will be one of the opportunities "to talk about some fundamentals of the British economy, and signal to investors that those fundamentals remain strong and that we are committed to some of the things that made Britain an attractive place to do business in the first place".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Britain is open for business, says Treasury official visiting S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe