Singapore seeks to deepen UK ties for new era

Pacts signed during London visit will create new opportunities

Deepening bilateral relations and forging new platforms of cooperation were some of the key elements of the Singapore government delegation's trip to London this week.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said: "Britain is going through some uncertainties but notwithstanding, our agencies got together prior to forge a series of cooperation agreements in various areas, from fintech to innovation to data.

"So whatever it is, whatever happens to Britain, we are forging ahead with our cooperation for a new era."

Another member of the Singapore delegation, Dr Tan Wu Meng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade and Industry, said: "It was really about continuing to maintain and deepen the bilateral account. And that was also a theme in how our delegation was constituted - Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a senior member of the team, taking with him members of the 4G team."

Mr Tharman's five-day working visit concluded on Thursday, while Mr Ong and Dr Tan visited London the same week. Their trip ended yesterday.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office yesterday said Mr Tharman's talks with Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster David Lidington, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell "focused on ways to create new opportunities for cooperation under the Singapore-United Kingdom Partnership for the Future, including through the agreements signed during the visit".

COOPERATION

Britain is going through some uncertainties but notwithstanding, our agencies got together prior to forge a series of cooperation agreements in various areas, from fintech to innovation to data. So whatever it is, whatever happens to Britain, we are forging ahead with our cooperation for a new era.

EDUCATION MINISTER ONG YE KUNG

Mr Tharman also had a useful exchange of views on domestic policy responses to the challenges faced by both countries, the statement added.

Earlier this week, he and Dr Tan met UK parliamentarians, where topics discussed included bilateral relations, regional developments and higher education reforms.

Describing the meetings as "fruitful", Dr Tan said: "The key message is that the bilateral relationship is longstanding. It is deep. It is also forward-looking."

Mr Ong met British Education Secretary Damian Hinds and they discussed issues such as skills. At this meeting, Mr Ong was also told that Britain had adopted Singapore's primary and secondary mathematics syllabuses.

Mr Ong visited the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, a comprehensive school that practises subject-based banding, a practice that Singapore plans to implement; and Cambridge Assessment, which Singapore is working with on a new consolidated secondary school certificate.

 
 

On Thursday night, Mr Ong and Dr Tan held a dialogue with Singaporeans based in Britain at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. About 250 people attended the two-hour session.

Peppered with laughter and candid responses, the session saw issues raised that included inequality, mental wellness and workplace competitiveness.

Education was a hot topic: Questions posed included those on moving back to Singapore with school-going children and student-teacher ratios in local schools.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore seeks to deepen UK ties for new era'. Print Edition | Subscribe