UK ambassador: Brexit may make Israel relationship more important

A ‘BREXIT’ SUPPORTER holds a Union Jack at a Vote Leave rally in London earlier this month. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A ‘BREXIT’ SUPPORTER holds a Union Jack at a Vote Leave rally in London earlier this month.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the aftermath of Britons’ vote to leave the European Union, the UK is going to redouble efforts to strengthen its other international ties, including with Israel, according to Ambassador David Quarrey.
“I don’t anticipate, certainly in the short term, any significant changes between the UK and Israel, because I don’t think that the fundamentals of that relationship have changed,” Quarrey told a group of Israeli journalists on Thursday afternoon. “Those relationships with others around the world, including Israel, will be as important or more important in the future.”
A great deal of uncertainty surrounds how the British exit from the EU, or Brexit, will move forward. Following the vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would step down and leave it to his successor to carry out the process, but that successor will not be chosen until late September or early October.
Quarrey believes, however, that the next prime minister will not try to overturn or ignore the results of the June 23 referendum, as many pundits (and, indeed, many Britons) have suggested.
“The people have made their decision and the people decided we will be leaving” the EU, he said.
On Thursday, it emerged that Home Secretary Theresa May and her euroskeptic rival Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom are the two candidates who will battle to become Conservative Party leader, and thus Britain’s next prime minister. May won 199 votes and Leadsom 84 in a second ballot of lawmakers of the governing Conservative Party. The party’s members will choose between them.
When the next prime minister invokes Article 50 of the EU treaty that deals with withdrawal from the union, it will kick off a two-year process for Britain to renegotiate its economic relationship with the EU. At the same time, it will have to renegotiate its trade relationships with countries such as Israel, which currently trade with it as a member of the union.
One concern for Israel is what will happen it does not have a new trade arrangement with the UK in place by the time the two-year period is over.
In that situation, Quarrey said, “there will be some kind of successor arrangement.”
Like other British politicians, Quarrey tried to project an image of stability, noting that all the things that make the British economy a strong one remain in place.
But for Israeli companies, 15 of which Quarrey met with earlier in the day to assuage concerns, the possibility that the UK will no longer serve as a springboard to the EU could be a major drawback.
The remains little clarity as to how the negotiations will play out, or whether there will be a compromise to allow the UK access to the EU’s single market.
On a broader scale, the repercussions of the decision may also be hurting Israel’s economy. On Wednesday, Bank of America Merrill Lynch revised its 2016 economic growth projection for Israel downward from 2.7 percent to 2.4%, “given increasing risks to global growth, including the negative impact of Brexit, and the weak 1Q GDP report.”
Israel’s first quarter GDP growth was a disappointing 1.3%.
Outside the economic sphere, Quarrey acknowledged that the Brexit vote would leave Israel with one fewer strong ally within the European bureaucracy, but said Britain would remain a steadfast friend.
“We were a strong friend and partner before we were in the EU, during our time in the EU, and will be once we have left the EU,” he said.
With the UK scrambling to pick of the pieces after the referendum unexpectedly swung toward Leave, The Jerusalem Post asked Quarrey for his views on recent calls from Israel’s opposition to hold a referendum on the two-state solution.
“I think that’s a very important issue for the Israeli people to discuss,” he responded with a smile.