Britain will reportedly seek to bolster economic ties with Israel following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last year.
Israel and Britain will set up a working group to negotiate trade deals between the two countries, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.
According to the report, a team of two to four officials from each country will meet by the end of March, and the group is expected to continue meeting two or three times a year to hammer out economic agreements.
On his visit to Israel last week, UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson boasted of the existing close ties between the two countries and mentioned plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement.
In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Johnson hailed growing bilateral commercial ties: “We have the fastest growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel. We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you. But you’ve also greatly contributed to our economy.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure to start negotiations on leaving the bloc, by the end of March. That will begin two years of negotiations between Britain and the EU as to exactly what Brexit will entail.
While it was part of the European Union, trade deals with other countries were done in Brussels on behalf of the entire bloc of nations. Britain is now looking to set up trade deals on its own to replace the existing deals. Although a trade deal with the US is a priority, the UK sees Israel as an important trading partner.
Last month Netanyahu visited London, and he and May spoke of “preparing the ground” for a post-Brexit trade deal.
“We’re seeing trading bilateral relationships between the UK and Israel, in science and trade for example, doing better than ever,” British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey told the Guardian. “But there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit. I was with Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu in London and it was clear there was the determination for this.
“Most business people in Israel look at the UK as a great place to do business, because of its culture, language, and the predictability of the regulatory and tax system,” he said.
James Sorene, chief executive of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), wrote that “the Israel-Britain alliance is a boost for the British economy and carries sizable strategic advantages for both countries. The reality is that a strong partnership with Israel is an asset that will become increasingly valuable for the UK as it resets relations after leaving the EU.”
Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who serves on the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, told the Guardian that “one of the main areas we can co-operate is cybersecurity, where Israel is receiving 20% of worldwide investments – huge for such a small country.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.