[pib] Agreement between India and UK on custom cooperation approved


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Agreement on assistance in customs matters

Background of the agreement

  • The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister has approved the signing and ratification of an Agreement with the UK on Customs Cooperation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters.
  • The Agreement would provide a legal framework for sharing of information and intelligence between the Customs authorities of the two countries.
  • It will also help in the proper application of Customs laws, prevention and investigation of Customs offences and the facilitation of legitimate trade.
  • The Agreement takes care of Indian Customs’ concerns and requirements, particularly in the area of exchange of information on the correctness of the Customs value, tariff classification and origin of the goods traded between the two countries.


  • The Agreement will help in the availability of relevant information for the prevention and investigation of Customs offences.
  • The Agreement is also expected to facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between the countries.


UK turns to Indo-Pacific  


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quad

Mains level : Expansion of Quad

Britain wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo-Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance.

Seems like QUAD is getting attention from other democratic nations for the big-brother role!

What is the news?

  • A document laying out post-Brexit has highlighted foreign defence policy priorities of the UK.

Britain’s post BREXIT plan

  • This document is Britain’s biggest foreign and defence policy review since the end of the Cold War.
  • It sets out a planned increase to Britain’s nuclear arsenal to weigh against evolving global security threats and underlines the importance of strong ties with the US while naming Russia as the top regional threat.
  • It sets out how PM Boris Johnson wants to be at the forefront of a reinvigorated, rules-based international order based on cooperation and free trade.

Focus on Indo-pacific

  • China and the U.K. both benefit from bilateral trade and investment, but China also presents the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security, the report said.
  • Calling the Indo-Pacific increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world, the government highlighted a planned British aircraft carrier deployment to the region.
  • Britain, the world’s sixth-largest economy, is dwarfed economically and militarily by China.
  • The UK believes, through soft power and strategic alliances, it can help persuade Beijing to play by the rules of a new, more dynamic international system.

Content over Hong Kong

  • The Sino-British ties have tensed since over issues including Beijing’s security crackdown on former British colony Hong Kong.

UK needs India for this juncture

  • UK PM Boris Johnson has called ”India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom.”
  • India’s skilled labour, technological assistance and the vibrant market will open a lot of avenues for Britain which has recently parted ways with the European Union.
  • India is not the world’s largest telecom market; it is also the fastest-growing.
  • According to a study on India’s telecom sector, an increase in telecom subscriptions often touches 20 million a month.
  • India also offers the cheapest data compared at current market exchange rates. As per, the price per GB data in India to be $0.09.
  • Along with the world, India is now steering towards 5G. The UK will need India’s help to marginalize China in the telecom market.

What else?

  • The report categorised India as “an international actor of growing importance”
  • Earlier the British government has approached Washington about a “D10” club of democratic partners, based on G7 plus Australia, South Korea and India.


[op-ed snap] What Brexit means for the EU and its partners


On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union, the EU project will be taken forward by the 27 member states.

A structured exit

  • Minimum disruption:  This is largely thanks to the Withdrawal Agreement that was negotiated with the U.K., which enabled “an orderly Brexit”.
    • One that, at least for now, minimises disruption for our citizens, businesses, public administrations, as well as for our international partners.
  • An arrangement of the transition period: Under this agreement, the EU and the U.K. agreed on a transition period, until the end of 2020 at least.
    • During which the U.K. will continue to participate in the EU’s Customs Union and in the Single Market, and to apply EU law, even if it is no longer a Member State.
    • During this period, the U.K. will also continue to abide by the international agreements of the EU, as we made clear in a note verbale to our international partners.

Building a new partnership between the EU and the UK

  • Degree of continuity: With the transition period in place, there is a degree of continuity. This was not easy given the magnitude of the task.
    • By leaving the Union, the U.K. automatically, mechanically, legally, leaves hundreds of international agreements concluded by or on behalf of the Union.
  • Building new partnership: That work will start in a few weeks as soon as the EU 27 Member States have approved the negotiating mandate proposed by the European Commission, setting out our terms and ambitions for achieving the closest possible partnership with a country which will remain EU’s ally, partner and friend.
  • Links and shared values: The EU and the U.K. are bound by history, by geography, culture, shared values and principles and a strong belief in rules-based multilateralism. Our future partnership will reflect these links and shared beliefs.
  • Working on topics beyond trade: Both sides want to go well beyond trade and keep working together on security and defence, areas where the U.K. has experiences and assets that are best used as part of a common effort.
  • Cooperation on the wide topics: In a world of big challenges and change, of turmoil and transition, we must consult each other and cooperate, bilaterally and in key regional and global fora, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the G20.
  • Collective responses to handle global challenges: Today’s global challenges- from climate change to cybercrime, terrorism or inequality — require collective responses.
    • The more the U.K. is able to work in lockstep with the EU and together with partners around the world, the greater would be chances of addressing these challenges effectively.

Way forward

  • Continuing project forward as 27: At the very core of the EU project is the idea that it is stronger together; that pooling resources and initiatives is the best way of achieving common goals. Brexit does not change this, and efforts must be taken to continue this project forward as 27.
  • Note for the partners: EU’s partners can be sure that EU will stay true to an ambitious, outward-looking agenda-be it on trade and investment, on climate action and digital, on connectivity, on security and counter-terrorism, on human rights and democracy, or on defence and foreign policy.



[op-ed snap] Brexit on fast-track: On passage of deal in UK Parliament


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Way ahead for Brexit


Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal was passed in the British Parliament. It is now certain that the country would exit the European Union (EU) on or before the current deadline.

Boris Johnson – Brexit

  • Mr. Johnson first reached a new agreement with the EU and then called fresh elections. 
  • With his party’s resounding win in the parliamentary election and a surge in the number of Brexiteers among Conservative lawmakers, the passage of the Bill in the House of Commons was a mere formality. 
  • The deal got the support of 358 lawmakers against 234. 


  • Contents of the deal – It deals with issues such as citizens’ rights, the settlement amount the U.K. has agreed to pay the EU and an arrangement to avoid physical barriers between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland.
  • The accord will be put on a vote in the House of Commons once more, and then the House of Lords will vote on it. 
  • Once the EU lawmakers ratify it, the U.K. will formally exit the union.

Still not the end

  • A formal exit doesn’t mean that the tedious Brexit process is over. 
  • Even after January 31, the U.K. will continue to remain in the EU single market and customs union, at least for 11 months – trade will continue as usual. 
  • Challenge – to reach another agreement with the EU on the country’s future relationship with the bloc. 
  • There are also legislative and political challenges ahead even if the current deal goes through the EU hurdle. 
  • Legislations – His government has to pass a series of new legislation replacing the existing EU laws. 
  • Ireland – He should also be mindful of the impact his deal may have on the delicate peace in Northern Ireland. The deal seeks to erect a customs border between Great Britain and the island of Ireland. This has irked the unionists and strengthened the nationalists in Northern Ireland. 


The uncertainty over Brexit is now over. But the uncertainty on how Brexit will happen still remains. Johnson should be mindful of the speed-breakers. If not, the economic and political costs of Brexit could be huge.


[op-ed snap] The day of Boris: On U.K. polls


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Brexit progress - change in government


The Conservative Party’s victory in the Parliament gives British Prime Minister Boris Johnson a clear mandate to take the U.K. out of the European Union without further delay. He built his campaign around the promise to “get Brexit done”,

Election campaign – Conservatives vs Labour

  • Boris Johnson called for an early election after reaching a new divorce deal with the EU. 
  • He turned the poll into a de facto Brexit referendum, arguing that only a stable Conservative government could take the U.K. out of the EU quickly.
  • His strategy was to consolidate the pro-Brexit vote, get a fresh mandate in Parliament and then quicken the divorce process. 
  • The Labour Party has been ambivalent on the question of Brexit. 
  • Mr. Corbyn promised another referendum and declined to state what his position would be during that vote. 
  • His focus was on the economy. He promised a radical expansion of the state, with plans to tax the rich, increase public spending and nationalise utilities. 
  • Labour fought a Brexit election without articulating a clear position on Brexit. 
  • It lost even its traditional working class districts in the Midlands and north of England that had voted to leave in the 2016 referendum.


  • Mr. Johnson wants to push the withdrawal agreement through Parliament at the earliest so that Britain could leave the union before the January 31 deadline. 
  • A big victory does not mean that the road ahead is smooth. 
  • Brexit agreement – his agreeemnt itself is controversial; once implemented, it could erect an effective customs border between Britain and the island of Ireland. 
  • Good Friday agreement – His deal might have an impact on the Good Friday agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland and to the unity of the Kingdom in general. 
  • With EU – more difficult part of the Brexit process is negotiating an agreement on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU. It could take years. 
  • Constitutional challenges – the poll results pose administrative and constitutional challenges to the Prime Minister. In Scotland, the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory has rekindled calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence. 


Mr. Johnson might go down in history as the Prime Minister who took the U.K. out of the EU. But at what cost is the question.

What has happened?

A referendum – a vote in which everyone of voting age can take part was held to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union and Leave won. <what is the difference b/s referendum and plebiscite?>

What is this UK, Britain, Ireland, Republic? What’s going on? Is Scotland a separate country?

Without going into the history- 

  • Full name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland i.e Great Britain plus N.I.
  • Great Britain – It contains 3 somewhat autonomous regions – England, Wales and Scotland
  • Republic of Ireland separated from northern Ireland and UK in 1920s and is a separate country now <Belfast is capital of which Ireland and what is the capital of Wales and Scotland?>

But why this referendum

Conservative govt led by David Cameron had promised this referendum if they won the general election and as they won this referendum was held

What is European Union?

  • It is an economic and political partnership involving 28 European countries <latest country to join EU?>
  • It is a single market (common market) allowing goods and people to move around, basically as if the member states were one country. So basically any French citizen can travel to Germany and work there without visa.
  • You can visit whole of EU with a single visa <no internal borders>

I had to take a separate visa to travel to London. How about that?

  • So this common visa thing is applicable only to countries that are party to Schengen area <where is Schengen btw?>
  • There are 26 Schengen countries (22 EU + 4 Non EU)
  • 4 Non EU – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein <btw Liechtenstein is a double land locked country. Look in the map and find out which other country is doubly landlocked, There’s only one other>
  • 6 EU not party – Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the UK.

So as UK is not party to Schengen, you had to take Visa.

What about euro? I had to use pound in UK. Isn’t the Euro currency of EU?

  • Euro currency is used by Eurozone countries. Eurozone is subset of EU. Only 19 EU countries are part of it. Obviously UK is not party to it. 
  • Euro is also used by 4 other European countries – Vatican, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco

Any history ? How did EU begin?

  • It grew out of a desire for peace in a war-torn and divided continent. It started in 1951 with European Coal and steel community of 6 countries by treaty of Paris <France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg>
  • 1957 – European Economic Community (EEC) or common market was formed by treaty of Rome,
  • 1973 – Britain, Denmark and Ireland joins the EEC <total 9 countries now>
  • 1992 – Maastricht treaty was signed and comes into force in 1993. Formal beginning of EU
  • 2002 – Euro replaces national currency in eurozone

What does EU do?

  • Eu oversees co-operation among its members in diverse areas, including trade, the environment, transport and employment
  • Common security and foreign policy
  • coordinates policy on asylum, immigration, drugs and terrorism <that’s why so much concern over migration fro middles east and north Africa>
  • EU policies on workers’ rights and other social issues <UK not part of this social chapter either>
  • Promotes human rights, give aid to agriculture, fisheries etc

Okay, sounds great but how does it all work?

EU works through 4 main institutions

  1. European Commission – All powerful bureaucracy of member states <each country, one representative>, propose laws, implement laws, job is to promote European interest, not the interest of member countries, HQ in Brussels <where is Brussels>
  2. European Council – It’s a political body, leaders meet here
  3. European Parliament – Directly elected MPs <MEPs> vote on almost all the issues now days. It sits in Strasbourg <where is Strasbourg?>
  4. European court of rights – name explains everything <where is its headquarters?

Why do Brits want to leave EU?

  1. Sovereignty – that Britain ceded its sovereignty, right to pass its own laws to bureaucrats sitting in Brussels <Doesn’t India lose its sovereignty by being member of UN?>
  2. Regulations – That Brussels imposed too many regulations that hurt British business interest
  3. Money – Billions of pounds of entry fee with very little to show in return <Britain don’t have many farmers to get agriculture subsidies>
  4. Open borders/ migration – even though Britain is not part Schengen, workers from rest of the EU can come their freely and work there. Large numbers from eastern europe came just to claim British benefits, social security and all <so called welfare tourism>
  5. Ever Closer Union – detested the idea of United states of Europe <closer political union, confederation sort of thing>

Why did Cameron want UK to stay in EU?

  1. Single market – much easier to sell things while being member of single market
  2. Security
  3. Britain’s status in the world is enhanced as part of EU

How is single market different from free trade area?

  • In FTA there are no tariffs except on some negotiated goods and services but in single market, even labour mobility is free
  • In Single market, you impose common tariffs on all imports, it;s like a single country for the purpose of trade and commerce
  • There are common standards etc. <environment, labour, quality etc.>

What is European free trade association (EFTA)?

  • It is FTA of 4 European countries -Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein <do you recall they are all part of Schengen>
  • All of them have signed FTA with EU. Britain can sign similar FTA with EU now

What happens now?

  • Britain would negotiate its exit <under Lisbon treaty>, But the fear is of contagion. Eurosceptic parties of other countries would also press for similar referendums.  
  • Plus as Scotland has voted overwhelmingly in favour of stay (68%), there would be fresh demand for referendum on Scottish independence. Similarly is the case with northern Ireland.

Impact on India

  • No direct impact but expect turbulence in stock and forex market. Panicky investors may withdraw their hot money out of India
  • On positive side, India can sign FTA with Britain
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