UK to try & transform itself into 'S'pore of Europe' with lower taxes & regulation: Daily Mail

For some, Singapore continues to be a feverish dream.

Matthias Ang | January 17, 2021, 10:22 PM

The UK will attempt to transform itself into the "Singapore of Europe" by cutting back on bureaucracy, the country's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said, according to British tabloid Daily Mail.

Headlined, "Let's make Britain the Singapore of Europe! Prime Minister's new mission for Rishi Sunak as he urges the Chancellor to exploit Brexit by emulating the low-tax, low-regulation Asian city state", the tabloid noted that the British government is keen to strike an upbeat note on the UK's future business prospects by highlighting that it is no longer hamstrung by European regulations.

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A post shared by Tan Chuan-Jin (@chuanjin1)

Sunak was however not quoted in the Daily Mail for saying that he hoped to "make Britain the Singapore of Europe".

He was only quoted as saying:

"Now that we have left the European Union, we have an opportunity to do things differently and this Government is committed to making the most of the freedoms that Brexit affords us."

New British committee to spearhead UK's "Singapore of Europe" transformation

Sunak has since been placed in charge of a committee by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, called the Better Regulation Committee, to reform the post-Brexit business environment in the country.

The committee will focus on major infrastructure projects, helping small businesses struggling with the pandemic's economic fallout, and "cutting-edge science and technology" projects.

The Chancellor has also denied claims that this means rights for workers and protection for the environment will be weakened.

In stressing that Brexit will unleash a second round of wealth creation, comparable to the boom in the 1980s which occurred in the wake of the late Margaret Thatcher deregulating the financial industry, he said:

"This isn’t about lowering standards but about raising our eyes to look to the future – making the most of new sectors, new thinking and new ways of working."

Article noticed in Singapore

The article and its headline have since caught the attention of some in Singapore.

On Jan. 17, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin put up an image of the article, highlighting UK's intention to emulate Singapore.

Tan remarked that while Singapore is not perfect, "there is much that we can be proud of".

Most netizens reacted to the post with a sense of delicious irony.

Source: Screenshot from Tan Chuan-Jin Instagram

Post-Brexit Singapore model has been touted by some for a few years now

This is not the first time that politicians in the UK has declared that it will be like Singapore after Brexit.

The phrase "Singapore-on-Thames" was sometimes used to describe Britain becoming a low-tax, lightly regulated economy that can out-compete the over-regulated eurozone.

According to Howard Davies, chairman of NatWest Group and the former director of the London School of Economics, the general idea was first mooted by Philip Hammond, then Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, as a means of encouraging the EU to strike a friendly Brexit deal with the UK.

In Dec. 2018, the former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt published an opinion piece, also in the Daily Mail, calling Singapore an inspiration in its "remarkable transformation... from a tiny territory devoid of natural resources into the world’s eighth-richest country".

This was followed by his arrival in Singapore on Jan. 2019, and a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which was heavy on effusive praise for Singapore's economy and mode of governance, along with the contribution of the British to Singapore's history.

However, there are also segments in the UK that are sceptical of such a view

However, Hunt's visit did not go down well back in the UK.

The Guardian took issue with the analogy that Hunt had drawn between Singapore's separation from Malaysia and Brexit, and questioned how relevant Singapore's transformation into "an export-orientated manufacturing base for international capital" will even be for the UK.

The Guardian added that this was due to Singapore growing at a time when "globalisation allowed multinational corporations to take advantage of different labour and production costs in manufacturing".

It also quoted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's scepticism on the matter.

PM Lee added that Singapore and UK's "histories are completely different".

PM Lee had also noted that the UK would have to give up a significant amount of government spending to follow Singapore's lead.

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Top screenshot from Tan Chuan-Jin Instagram