UK envoy tries to reassure Singapore

Eden Hall, Singapore, the official residence of the British High Commissioner. Source: Wikimedia

The close ties between Singapore and Britain will remain unchanged following the Brexit vote, British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman has said.

Wightman was speaking a day after the results of the referendum forcing the gambling British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his resignation.

There are no figures for how many of the 30,000 to 35,000 UK citizens in the city-state voted. Wightman told the media at Eden Hall, the official residence of the British High Commissioner, said the vote would have a huge impact on the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe but London would remain outward-facing.

Wightman said: “The UK for many years been a top destination for Singaporean investment. The bulk of that is in residential and commercial property, infrastructure and regulated assets, and there’s no reason to think that the decision made by the British people will have any significant bearing in the medium to long term on the attractiveness for Singaporean investors for those sorts of assets in the UK, setting aside the short-term volatility that we have inevitably seen in the wake of what is obviously a very significant decision.

“In Singapore there are over 1,000 British companies, and big British companies like Rolls Royce and Standard Chartered are major employers and make significant contributions to Singapore’s economy. So we will continue to be very important business partners.

“We will continue to be very engaged in East Asia as this is the most dynamic economic region in the world, and the UK has significant security interest at play in this region as well.”

The vote represented a turning point, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

The decision reflected the UK anxiety over immigration, resentment at having to negotiate with European partners and a desire to assert national identity, Lee stated.

He posted on Facebook: “Other developed countries also face similar challenges as Britain. We all live in a globalised, interdependent world. The desire to disengage, to be less constrained by one’s partners, to be free to do things entirely as one chooses, is entirely understandable. And yet in reality for many countries disengaging and turning inwards will likely lead to less security, less prosperity and a dimmer future.

“It is too early to tell, but we need to watch developments carefully. Nobody can foresee all the consequences of the Brexit. What new arrangements will be made? Will this hurt investor confidence more broadly, and the global economy? How will Britain’s leaving affect the rest of the EU? How will this affect us, living in Asia but part of the same globalised world?”

Lee wrote: “Singapore will continue to cultivate our ties with Britain, which is a long-standing friend and partner. We hope in time the uncertainty will diminish, and we will make the best of the new reality.

“We wish Britain well. I wish David Cameron well too, who has been a good friend of Singapore.”