Britain’s Wheeler Hails Post-Brexit Ties with South Korea as “Certain”

Britain’s Wheeler Hails Post-Brexit Ties with South Korea as “Certain”

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Heather Wheeler, has put to bed concerns over the future of trade ties between the UK and South Korean after Brexit takes effect this month. 

Backed by a series of institutional frameworks, including the recently signed bilateral free trade agreement, Wheeler says ties with South Korea are “certain.”

“There shouldn’t be any undue speculation in Korea because our future relationship with Global Britain and trade with you is certain, and that’s what businesses always want- certainty,” said the minister in an interview with Korean media outlets. 

“There shouldn’t be any speculation amongst Korean businesses… We will do business as usual, Global Britain and Korea together,” she said.

Wheeler is in South Korea’s capital of Seoul this week to attend a series of diplomatic events, including the signing of a memorandum of understanding for the launch of a vice-ministerial consultative body. The group has been tasked with strengthening economic cooperation once the UK leaves the EU at the end of this month.

“In order to create new opportunities for economic cooperation in a mutually beneficial way and further strengthen the institutional frameworks for the existing cooperative ties, the two sides will establish the Senior Economic Dialogue,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a press release. 

Wheeler’s visit comes at a crucial time for the two countries, who are striving to strengthen institutional frameworks to prepare for the coming post-Brexit era. One such step was the signing of a “continuity” free trade agreement on 22 August in a bid to ensure businesses can keep trading freely after Brexit take effect on 31 October 2019. 

The British Minister underscored Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s determination to leave the EU according to schedule, as per a national referendum held in 2016.

“We are a democratic country. We believe that if you go to all the trouble of having a referendum, then you’ve absolutely got to listen and acknowledge the votes of the public,” the minister said.

“The prime minister has made it absolutely clear that we want to leave with a deal. We are negotiating very hard to have a deal, but ultimately 31st of October, we will be leaving,” Wheeler added.

As well as committing to trade ties, Wheeler also raised the prospect of Britain bestowing its technical expertise in facilitating North Korea’s anticipated denuclearisation. 

“We can help with perhaps more on the technical level, because we’ve got great expertise in denuclearization, in decommissioning of nuclear bunkers and equipment,” she said.

Britain has invited South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho to London in 2020 to hold the inaugural session of their senior-level economic dialogue, including discussions over cooperation in the fintech and renewable energies sectors.

Joanna Eva is a London-based analyst and contributor with a range of clients in the risk consulting industry. She specializes in Asian political and economic analysis, having lived and travelled extensively in the region for close to a decade. She holds a Master of Law from the University of New South Wales and received her Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Sydney. She is proficient in English and Mandarin Chinese.

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