Close ties between S'pore and UK unchanged

British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman said Britain will continue to be open to investments and remain committed to global trade and security.
British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman said Britain will continue to be open to investments and remain committed to global trade and security.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The close ties between Singapore and the United Kingdom will remain unchanged after Thursday's Brexit vote. Britain will continue to be open to investments and remain committed to global trade and security.

These were the assurances given by British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman yesterday when he addressed the media a day after the results of the historic referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU).

Describing his country as a top destination for Singaporean investment, particularly in property, infrastructure and regulated assets, he said "there's no reason to think that the decision made by the British people will have any significant bearing on the attractiveness for Singaporean investors for those sorts of assets in the UK, setting aside the short-term volatility".

Singapore also serves as a regional base to many of the more than 1,000 British companies here, he added. "Big British companies like Rolls-Royce, Standard Chartered and GlaxoSmithKline are major employers and make significant contributions to Singapore's economy, so we will continue to be very important business partners," he said at the briefing at Eden Hall, the official residence of the British High Commissioner in Singapore.

"We will continue to be very engaged in East Asia, as this is the most dynamic economic region in the world, and the UK has significant security interests at play in this region as well."

There are no figures for how many of the 30,000 to 35,000 British citizens here voted in the referendum, but for many, the result brought shock. Nearly all the 15 British expats The Sunday Times spoke to were in the Remain camp, and expressed dismay. Lawyer Mak Judge, 29, said: "The EU was a cornerstone of security... By leaving it, we are creating cracks in the systems that have ensured peace for decades."

Author Alice Clark-Platts, 39, who has lived in Singapore with her family for five years, said she was close to tears. "It makes us look like isolationists. We're already dealing with austerity, and now a lot of time and resources will have to be diverted.

"It's also highlighted a massive divide within our own country. I worry it will have long-term effects on the psyche of our country."

Podiatrist Alexandra Guinee, 33, said: "I wanted to remain in the EU because we have only just recovered from 10 years of recession, and with this, we will face another 10 years of uncertainty."

Ms Sara Rochat, 24, a masters student at Nanyang Technological University, wondered what she would return to in a year. "Will it be the same home? The same multicultural and open-minded Britain I left?"

But student Samantha Mei Reeve, 20, felt a renewed sense of national pride now that the UK has "autonomy", saying: "There's a lot of fear because it's a sudden change, but we have to have faith in our choice."

Retiree Patricia Saunders, 76, believes Britons must keep calm and carry on. "As with everything that Britain has faced, it will get through this. Life goes on, it has to," she said.

•Additional reporting by Muneerah Razak

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'Close ties between S'pore and UK unchanged'. Print Edition | Subscribe