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‘UK seeks business continuity after Brexit’

Sir Simon McDonald, the UK permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service (Yonhap)
Sir Simon McDonald, the UK permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service (Yonhap)

With less than 200 days to Brexit on March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom is busy hammering out the terms of its separation from the European Union, and the possibility of a “no deal” serves no one’s interest, the UK’s top career diplomat said last week.

In a press meeting with local journalists, Sir Simon McDonald, the UK’s permanent undersecretary and head of the diplomatic service, stressed that Britain did “not advocate a no deal as a way forward.”

“The ‘chaos’ we see now is around how we will leave the EU and what sort of relationship we will maintain with it,” he said at the British Embassy in Seoul. “We are in a process of negotiations for either a high alignment or low alignment with the EU. The prime minister’s so-called ‘Chequers Plan’ is for a high alignment on goods and agriculture and low alignment on services, particularly the financial services.”

Regarding the future trade and investment relationship with Korea, the diplomat said, “The EU-Korea free trade agreement has been tremendously important for the EU well as the UK. Our priority is to have continuity and roll forward the provisions for our future trading partnership with Korea.”

The EU heads of state and government will meet on Oct. 18 to negotiate the terms of Brexit on the basis of the Chequers deal, McDonald noted, adding he remained “optimistic” about reaching an agreement.

According to the Economist, hard-line Brexiteers loathe the idea of having a close alignment with EU regulations that would smoothen trade in goods, while the Remainers are discontented with the plan’s omission of services -- Britain’s most competitive sector.

Regarding Britain’s role in helping the inter-Korean denuclearization efforts, McDonald said the UK can offer international diplomacy through the United Nations Security Council; technical expertise in denuclearization as a nuclear state; and diplomatic liaison through its embassy in Pyongyang.

“Denuclearization is a long-running problem and the response from outside needs more than one element. Engagement and pressure are equally important in the policy mix,” he said.

By Joel Lee (