PM Lee Hsien Loong holds first formal meeting with British PM Theresa May

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland at Friary Court yesterday.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Patricia Scotland at Friary Court yesterday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Queen Elizabeth greets PM Lee Hsien Loong, and his wife Madam Ho Ching, in the Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace as she hosts a dinner during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, on April 19, 2018.
Queen Elizabeth greets PM Lee Hsien Loong, and his wife Madam Ho Ching, in the Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace as she hosts a dinner during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, on April 19, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore's colonial past and Brexit were discussed yesterday when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met British Prime Minister Theresa May in their first formal meeting.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), Mr Lee said the time under British rule was a sensitive period in Singapore's history, but also a turning point for the country.

Both leaders agreed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the founding of modern Singapore by Stamford Raffles, with a new and substantive partnership. Singapore will mark the event next year.

Mr Lee, in announcing the bicentennial plans in his New Year message on Dec 31 last year, had said that "Raffles set Singapore on a different trajectory, which brought us to where we are today".

Yesterday, Mr Lee and Mrs May reaffirmed the deep and historical ties between Singapore and Britain that span various areas, including trade, defence and cyber security, said Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin.

Both countries have longstanding defence ties under the Five Power Defence Arrangements that were established in 1971. They also enjoy robust economic relations.

Bilateral trade stood at $11.4 billion last year, making Britain Singapore's fourth-largest trading partner in the European Union.

Yesterday, the two prime ministers also spoke about Britain's exit from the EU under Brexit.

 
 

They agreed that the "continuity approach" - under which all external agreements the EU signed with other countries will continue to apply to Britain after Brexit - would provide certainty.

In addition, the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, when ratified, would form a good baseline for the future bilateral trade relations between their countries, they said.

Mr Lee also welcomed Britain's intention to strengthen its engagement of Asean, and its pledge to do more together to support the development of Commonwealth member nations, including through providing technical assistance.

Mr Lee, who is in London for CHOGM, had talks on the sidelines with other Commonwealth leaders, including Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2018, with the headline 'PM Lee holds first formal meeting with May'. Print Edition | Subscribe