Since the EU referendum one of the most frequent questions I have been asked, as British Ambassador, is about the impact, direct or indirect, of that decision to leave the European Union on the UK’s relationship with Thailand.
It is worth making clear that to start with nothing will change until the UK finally leaves the UK. And that will not happen until two years after the United Kingdom notifies the European Union formally that we intend to leave the EU. So once that notice is given (in formal terms triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon) there will be two years of negotiations to set the terms for the UK’s exit from the EU. Speculation of what those terms might be is simply that - speculation. What is clear, though, is that for the moment nothing changes - people will still be able to travel and trade as before.
What has also not changed - and will not change - is the fundamental nature of Britain as a modern, forward-looking, innovative nation. A country of 65 million diverse and talented people - a multi racial and multi faith democracy. A top 10 world economy, outward oriented, innovative and committed to a rules based international system. A member of the G20, the G7, the Commonwealth, a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, a member of NATO. The only country in the world committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence and 0.7% GNI on development assistance. So a country that remains outward focused and committed to playing a strong role in the global community. That does not change.
But beyond that I’d like to emphasise to business people, investors, students, tourists that the relationships we have built between the UK and Thailand over 400 years will also remain strong and dynamic whatever the future relationship between Britain and Europe looks like. Because the relationship between the United Kingdom and Thailand is built on some very strong foundations. A mutual history that goes back for 400 years. Extensive people-to-people links. Vibrant co-operation in the areas such as trade and investment, science and innovation, and education. The United Kingdom is one of the largest European investors in Thailand with a stock of around 9 billion pounds here. We have bilateral trade worth over 5 billion pounds and world class British companies accessing and developing the market here. We have almost eight thousands of Thai students benefiting from British education in the UK and our scientific research collaboration under the Newton Fund is growing rapidly. This is a partnership that is growing.
It is a partnership that allows Thailand to tap into the fundamental strengths and creative dynamism of the UK. And for UK companies to be part of Thailand’s growth trajectory. We have, in London, the world’s most international leading financial centre. We have some of the best universities in the world (4 of the top 10), some of the best cutting-edge research, innovation and design, world beating creative industries and some of the most efficient and competitive manufacturing capabilities.
That offers many opportunities for us all. And as British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, I can promise that my Embassy will be looking to pursue those opportunities very energetically.
Britain is and remains open to Thailand. We want to see more investors, business people, students, and tourists go to the United Kingdom. And more in the other direction too. That is the hallmark of a successful, evolving partnership.
The United Kingdom is a modern, forward-looking, innovative country. If you look at our history where there were problems, issues or conflicts, we have found creative and innovative ways to resolve those and to move forward. I am confident that we can meet the challenges that now face us and build a strong future for Britain. And I am confident that Thailand can be a key partner for us in creating that new future.
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