Interview: Brexit not to harm Britain-China relations, says British foreign affairs expert

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-20 18:41:58|Editor: Mengjie
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by Peter Barker, Gui Tao

LONDON, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Britain-China relationship will not be harmed by Brexit, on the contrary, it will be reinforced, foreign affairs adviser and private secretary to two former British prime ministers Charles Powell has said.

"I believe that it is Mrs May's intention that Britain should continue to have a very close and substantial relationship with China," said Powell in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"She will be reinforced in that view, I believe, by the success of the summit meeting between (U.S.) President (Donald) Trump and (Chinese) President Xi Jinping," he added.

"I think if Britain and the U.S. are both simultaneously trying to forge a stronger relationship with China, that essentially is to the benefit of all three countries, and perhaps with Mrs May the relationship with China will be slightly less high-profile, simply because that is more her nature."

Powell said China would "find it useful" to have Britain not just as a trade partner but also as an "important country with which it can have useful, significant strategic discussions", as after Brexit, Britain will be able to speak clearly on its own instead of having to compromise to form a common stand if staying in the European Union (EU).

China has yet to reach a free trade agreement with the EU, and while that's still a possibility, a free trade agreement is something Britain would certainly seek after Brexit takes place.

"Both options will be on the table for China," said Powell.

Powell worked for Margaret Thatcher and then John Major as their private secretary from 1983 to 1991, and saw at first hand how foreign relations were created and handled by Britain.

"If you look at all her time as prime minister, Mrs Thatcher negotiated very hard with Europe, but always to make it possible for Britain to stay in."

Thatcher would have fought to improve Britain's terms of membership of the 28-nation bloc, and would have regarded Brexit "as quitting," said Powell.

As to the upcoming negotiations between Britain and the EU on Brexit, Powell thinks it depends on 27 other EU countries as much as on Britain.

"I think a satisfactory outcome, which enables Britain to continue with a tailor-made relationship with Europe, is perfectly possible if people approach the negotiations sensibly and moderately, and I think both sides should be able to claim victory, if you like, at the end of the negotiations," he suggested.