Israel and the United Kingdom struck a landmark deal last month to heighten trade, technology and security ties for the next seven years.
The 2030 Roadmap for U.K.-Israel Bilateral Relations, which was signed on March 21, pledges £20 million (nearly $25 million) in joint funding commitments for technology and innovation projects, which will enable both countries to “remain at the forefront of the technological revolution,” stated the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
The announcement of the new agreement came as Eli Cohen, Israel’s foreign minister, met in London with his British counterpart James Cleverly, secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs.
Israel’s and the United Kingdom’s current trade relations are worth around £7 billion (nearly $9 billion) annually, and some 400 Israeli technology firms operate in the United Kingdom. Those businesses have created some 16,000 jobs in Britain since 2015, according to an FCDO release.
In 2019, the United Kingdom and Israel signed an agreement to permit trade “without any additional barriers or tariffs,” following the former’s exit from the European Union.
In July 2022, the two states launched negotiations for a free trade deal that was touted to be worth £78 million (nearly $97 million) per year, but an agreement is yet to be reached.
The new “roadmap” is the culmination of efforts that began officially with the signing of a post-Brexit Memorandum of Understanding in November 2021. Both countries agreed to expand cooperation over the next decade on cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, which scaled up their relationship to a “strategic partnership.”
The British government maintains that a “new trade deal, by lowering barriers and championing free trade, is a key priority for both governments.”
The FCDO also stressed that the new bilateral roadmap “builds on 75 years of close relations between the two countries and includes shared commitments to tackle the scourge of antisemitism.”
In 2024, the United Kingdom will chair the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and Cleverly stated in late March that the United Kingdom will “promote fact-based knowledge of the Holocaust and strengthen media and information literacy.” The foreign office did not respond to questions from JNS on what that might entail.
‘Continue to serve mutual interests’
Toby Greene, assistant professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, told JNS that the roadmap is a step towards a trade deal.
“The agreement is not yet an upgraded trade deal,” said Greene, who is a former head of policy at the lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. Instead, he noted that “a trade deal is part of the package for the roadmap for coming years.”
The announcement came before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited London, and following a spike in tensions between Britain and Israel after Cleverly said that the FCDO had “no plans” to work with Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister.
“The presence of the far right in the Israeli cabinet will create problems for elements of U.K.-Israel strategic cooperation, but that cooperation is institutionalized at many levels through many different channels,” said Greene.
“Both countries have a lot to gain from deeper strategic cooperation,” he continued. “The U.K. sees a lot of potential in deeper strategic and economic ties with Israel post-Brexit. That said, some may find this announcement ill-timed given the depth of Israel’s domestic political crisis and the extremist character of the current Israeli government.”
Steve Winston, managing director of the National Jewish Assembly, told JNS that the group applauds the British and Israeli governments for committing to the 2030 roadmap.
The strategic partnership “will continue to serve mutual interests, ranging from security and defense cooperation to research and development in science, technology, health care and other fields,” he said.
The roadmap also “promises to combat the scourge of antisemitism,” added Winston.
He said his group represents “an increasing number of British Jews” and “is proud of the deep and historic partnership between Israel and the U.K.—a testament to our shared values of freedom, innovation and democracy—and we look forward to seeing this strategic partnership evolve and grow over the coming years.”
Israel and the United Kingdom’s respective foreign minister and foreign secretary also discussed countering Iran’s destabilizing activity in the Middle East; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and the United Kingdom’s support for the Abraham Accords.
The FCDO also stated that the foreign secretary raised the “U.K.’s concerns about the recent spike in violence in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the need for all parties to take steps to de-escalate and end the cycle of violence.”
Simon Round, a spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish community’s largest representative body in the United Kingdom, told JNS that it “warmly welcomed the news that the government has signed the 2030 Roadmap for UK-Israel Bilateral Relations.”
“This is an agreement that includes not only trade, security and cultural agreements, but also the commitment for the U.K. to continue its work fighting antisemitism and delegitimization of Israel globally,” he said.