Evolving post-Brexit UK-Bangladesh ties

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News Desk

The culmination of the Brexit saga prompted a significant transformation in the global political landscape. The United Kingdom entered in a new era, and with it they embrace the opportunities to reevaluate its relationships with other countries. Among them, the dynamic relationship between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh provides a striking case study of how Brexit’s effects might be felt far beyond Europe.

The effects of Brexit on the relationship between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh have been felt across many fronts, from economic dynamics to diplomatic interactions. Since UK was once a member of the European Union, its interactions with countries like Bangladesh were governed by EU trade agreements and guidelines. AfterBrexit, UK is now free to pursue its own economic and diplomatic interests. This has ramifications for its ties to Bangladesh in a number of contexts. As the Brexit smoke clears, however, the two countries rethink their relationship in light of the modern world’s interconnectedness.

The foundation of the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom originates in a historical context and encompasses several dimensions. British lawmakers were staunch backers of Bangladesh’s independence movement. They aid refugees from Bangladesh to India; in terms of both financial support and relief. The British media had a major influence on how the world learned about the genocide and liberation struggle of 1971.Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, returned to Bangladesh from Pakistan on January 8, 1972; however, he first stopped in London. During that time, Bangabandhu had a meeting with then British Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath. The two countries’ relationship got off to a good start after that encounter. On February 4, 1972, the UK was one of the first European nations to officially recognise Bangladesh, which hastened recognition by other Commonwealth and Western countries. It is noteworthy to mention that, Bangladesh attained membership in the Commonwealth on April 18, 1972.

The United Kingdom is Bangladesh’s third-biggest export market. The UK offers tax and quota exemptions for trade with Bangladesh under the “Everything but Arms” initiative of the European Union. After UK leaves the European Union, Bangladesh is still enjoying the same trade advantages it then enjoyed, and they also confirmed GSP+ benefits will be granted to the country after it reaches middle-income status.

After Brexit the UK- Bangladesh relationship becomes multidimensional and more collaborative. As South Asia is currently at the forefront of the UK government, they keep eyes on Bangladesh. In 2017, Lord Bates, a minister for the British government, praised Bangladesh as “a success story in Asia”. Again, during her visit in the UK, Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s counterpart Rishi Sunak admires Sheikh Hasina as a “role model”, source of inspiration.

After the United States and Germany, the United Kingdom becomes Bangladesh’s third-largest single market destination. In 2021, Bangladesh made £2.4 billion from exports to the United Kingdom. But, after the Brexit trade between two countries is increasing in a rise of 35.7%, or £998 million at current prices, compared to the 2022. In the four quarters leading up to the end of Q1 (first quarter) 2023, total commerce in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh amounted to £4.5 billion, an increase of 25.0% or £902 million in current prices from the four quarters leading up to the end of Q1 2022. Over the last four quarters ending in Q1 2023, the UK imported a total of £3.8 billion from Bangladesh. In the four quarters ending in Q1 2023, Bangladesh was the United Kingdom’s 50th biggest trading partner, contributing 0.3% of total UK trade. Again, when compared to India, the United Kingdom’s development aid to Bangladesh is second-highest. There was £816 million worth of accumulated FDI from the United Kingdom into Bangladesh in 2021.

Nevertheless, with the sole exception of the textile industry, Bangladesh’s involvement in other areas of commerce is minimal. Bottlenecks are being triggered by the low quality of manufacturing and strained business relationships. Against this backdrop, both countries are investigating for reconfiguration of trade dynamics. Since Brexit, the United Kingdom has been reshaping its trade and investment relations with a more liberal, pro-trade approach that promotes prosperity and opens up new opportunities. Experts argue that a free trade agreement (FTA) between both countries would be beneficial to commerce between them. They believe that this is the time to negotiate an FTA with the UK so that Bangladesh may take full advantage of any trade opportunities that arise when the UK leaves the EU trading bloc at the end of 2022.

The United Kingdom and Bangladesh’s cooperation on climate change transcends the bilateral sphere. Both countries are active players in the global climate change debate and realize the necessity for bold action. In March 2023, Bangladesh and the UK inked an climate accord to work together on climate action on both a bilateral and multilateral basis, with the goal of implementing the resolutions agreed at COP26 and COP27. Their agreement in international forums increases the urgency of climate action and highlights the need for all-encompassing, equitable solutions.

Moreover, the United Kingdom has been with Bangladesh since the beginning of the Rohingya problem. The government continues to put pressure on Myanmar’s military junta to repatriate the Rohingya in their own land. The UK has contributed about £350 million in aid to the Rohingya refugee crisis since 2017. The UK has pledged an extra £11.6 million (160 crore taka) in humanitarian aid for Rohingya refugees and communities in Bangladesh that have been devastated by natural catastrophes in June, 2023.

The changing dynamic between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh is illustrative of the ramifications and potential released by Brexit. All aspects of this relationship, from trade negotiations to diplomatic talks, from financial partnerships to personal ties, are being rebuilt in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. And yet, despite the unknowns, Brexit has given both the UK and Bangladesh the confidence to go forward in a changing global landscape. Their shared past, dedication to working together, and pursuit of common goals will serve as rock-solid pillars of encouragement as they navigate a course through these unfamiliar waters. After the Brexit storm clears, the United Kingdom and Bangladesh may forge an alliance that honors their disparities while capturing the spirit of this globalized age.

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