India: BREXIT – Trigger For Larger Things To Come?

Trigger For Larger Things To Come?


In posterity, June 2016 will be remembered for one of the major global event risks materializing – a British referendum to exit the European Union (EU). This result was unexpected by most quarters of the market, and there was an immediate negative reaction seemingly driven by sentiments. Since then, developments have been more in line with broader market consensus as policymakers have expressed their willingness to extend full support to the economy. In fact, the Bank of England has already loosened its monetary policy and will probably do more in the coming days to avoid any unnecessary collateral damage. The UK government could also go in for a more pragmatic fiscal policy given that the growth of the economy will likely take a hit.


Markets have remained broadly stable and have reacted on expected lines with adequate capital making its way towards safe-haven assets. The initial reaction in the markets was of shock and resulted in steep declines in the equity markets and strengthening of the USD. However, since then, levels of risk aversion have reduced, and equity markets worldwide have done well, along with a rise in the price of most sovereign bonds. The biggest negative effect has been felt on the currency markets as the GBP has fallen by around 11% versus the USD. While not completely unanticipated, this does show the investors’ concern over the future of the UK markets.

Still, the true ramifications of BREXIT will take months, if not years, to become apparent. While several possibilities can play out in the coming months, it is important to take a step back and gauge the impact on the Indian economy through its linkages with the UK and the broader EU economy.


The UK and the EU are both important trading partners for India, and both are committed to enhancing their trade flows shortly. According to data released by the Ministry of Commerce, UK-India bilateral trade was valued at USD 14.02 billion in FY16. The EU-India trade (including the UK) was valued at USD 88.56 billion in FY16. Further, exports to the UK and the EU were worth USD 8.83 billion and USD 44.62 billion, while imports were worth USD 5.19 billion and USD 43.94 billion.

Trade between UK-India and EU-India is an area of focus as all parties are striving to increase trade. In fact, trade deals and negotiations were being discussed even before the referendum took place.


The UK used to be India’s third-biggest trading partner 15 years ago; today, it is its 12th1. Also, the UK is one of seven countries with which India has a trade surplus. Negotiations with the EU are currently being held regarding Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)2, which will likely boost bilateral trade between nations.

India’s imports from the UK are largely dominated by precious metals and stones, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, iron and steel, and electrical equipment. At the same time, exports to the UK are led by apparel and clothing accessories, boilers, machinery, and mechanical appliances, precious metals, and vehicles.

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