Singapore–United Kingdom relations

Singapore–United Kingdom relations, also referred to as British–Singaporean relations, are the relations between the states of Singapore and the United Kingdom. Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations and are marked by historical, cultural, institutional and language ties, extensive people-to-people links, aligned security interests, sporting tournaments, and significant trade and investment co-operation.

Singapore–United Kingdom relations


United Kingdom
Diplomatic mission
Singaporean High Commission, LondonBritish High Commission, Singapore
High Commissioner Thambynathan JasudasenHigh Commissioner Kara Owen

Country comparison

Common nameSingaporeUnited Kingdom
Official Name Republic of Singapore
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Coat of Arms
Population 5,638,700[1] 67,886,004[2]
Area 725.7 km2 (280.2 sq mi)[3] 242,495 km2 (93,628 sq mi)[4]
Population Density 7,804/km2 (20,210/sq mi) 270.1/km2 (700/sq mi)
Time zones 1 1[note 1]
Capital  Singapore (City-state) London
Largest City  Singapore – 5,638,700 (City-state) London – 8,961,989 (14,257,962 Metro)
Government Unitary dominant-party parliamentary constitutional republic Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Established 1299 (Founding of the Kingdom of Singapore)
9 August 1965 (Proclamation of Singapore)
1535 & 1542 (Annexation of Wales to England)
1603 (Union of the Crowns)
1707 (Acts of Union of England and Scotland)
Head of State Halimah Yacob Elizabeth II
Head of Government Lee Hsien Loong Boris Johnson
Deputy Leader Heng Swee Keat Dominic Raab[note 2]
Legislature Parliament of Singapore Parliament of the United Kingdom
Official/National Languages English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil English[note 3]
National Anthem Onward Singapore God Save the Queen[note 4]
Military Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) British Armed Forces[note 5]
Law Enforcement Agency Singapore Police Force (SPF) National Crime Agency (NCA)
GDP (nominal) $372.807 billion[5] $2.744 trillion[5]
GDP (nominal) per capita$68,487[5]$41,030[5]
GDP (PPP)$615.698 billion[5]$3.131 trillion[5]
GDP (PPP) per capita$107,604[5]$46,827[5]
Currency Singapore dollar (SGD) Pound sterling (GBP)
Human Development Index 0.935 (very high)[6] 0.920 (very high)[6]


Britain first established a settlement on the island of Singapore in 1819 under Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, and took possession of the whole island in 1823. It formally became a British colony in 1824, and remained in British hands (apart from the Japanese occupation of 1941-45) until 1963, when the island was granted its independence. Between 1963-65, Singapore formed part of Malaysia. The British Armed Forces maintained a presence in Singapore at the request of the founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for stability reasons and to allow for a gradual transition to independence and self-reliance. After the end of the Malayan Emergency and Konfrontasi, the British military gradually withdrew during the 1960s and 1970s, with the infrastructure turned over to the fledgling Singapore Armed Forces.[7]

As a result of the long historical relationship, English is one of Singapore's 4 official languages (see Singapore English).

Bilateral relations

The United Kingdom co-operates with Singapore on a wide range of international issues. Singapore's non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council (2001/02) further intensified bilateral contacts on key issues affecting international peace and security. The UK and Singapore have also been closely co-operating in the area of counter terrorism and counter proliferation, both politically and operationally.


Since 1971, the two countries have co-operated militarily through the Five Power Defence Arrangements, which involve annual joint exercises with other partners including Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. The UK has a defence attache in Singapore and a logistics supply depot, known as the British Defence Singapore Support Unit (BDSSU), in Sembawang.[8] In contrast, Singapore has no military attache in their High Commission in London. An EU Centre report Singapore) suggest that Singapore's defence attache to the UK is located in the Embassy in Paris[9][10] A recent news report stated that the UK wish to increase its defence cooperation with Singapore.[11]

Trade and investment

Singapore is the United Kingdom's largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, with two thirds of UK exports to this region flowing into Singapore. UK exports of goods only to Singapore in 2010 were valued at £3.29billion, a 15% increase from 2009 while imports of goods from Singapore in 2010 were valued at £3.99billion, an 18% increase from 2009. The top exports of UK goods to Singapore are power generating machinery, beverages and general industrial machinery while the top exported goods from Singapore were organic chemical, power generating machinery and office machines. As of 2009, Singapore was the UK's 11th largest market for services exports.[12]

There are few import tariffs from Singapore who supports the World Trade Organization process fully. Singapore was the first ASEAN country to commence negotiations with the EU for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The UK is the fourth largest foreign investor in Singapore with cumulative stock of £23.5 billion at end 2009. There are over 31,000 British nationals and some 700 British companies in Singapore. Many of the major long-term British investors have increased their footprint in Singapore recently, including Barclays, Dyson, HSBC, Rolls Royce, Shell and Standard Chartered. There has also been a significant increase in the number of British SMEs entering the market and British universities establishing collaborative partnerships with Singapore's educational institutions.[12]

The UK attracts over two thirds of all Singaporean investment into the European Union with a cumulative stock of £20.6 billion with financial and insurance services, real estate and ICT being the most significant sectors.[12]

State visits

In 2011, 6 dignitaries from the United Kingdom visited Singapore including Peter Ricketts, the National Security Advisor in January, Martin Donnelly, BIS Permanent Secretary in February, John Aston, FCO Special Representative for Climate Change in March, Jeremy Browne, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in April, Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence in June and The Duke of York in September. The two Singaporean dignitaries who visited the United Kingdom in 2011 are Ow Foong Pheng, Permanent Secretary Singapore Ministry of Trade & Industry in September and Tony Tan, President of Singapore in December.[13] In October 2014, Tony Tan made the first official state visit of a President of Singapore to the United Kingdom and was hosted by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.[14][15]

Academic exchanges

Education links between Singapore and the United Kingdom are strong. As of 2011, more than 3,000 Singaporeans were studying in the United Kingdom and the British Council estimate that around 80,000 UK qualifications are awarded annually in Singapore through "twinning" programmes. Due to Singapore's membership in the Commonwealth, Singaporean students qualify for scholarships such as the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan and Chevening Scholarship to further their studies in the United Kingdom. Links in the arts are also strong with many British artists and organisations being invited to perform and the established presence of British music examination boards such as ABRSM.

The British Council has a large presence teaching English to around 20,000 Singaporeans and foreign nationals. Current British Council projects focus on the internationalisation of education, developing young leaders to take action against climate change and the exchange of knowledge and expertise in the arts and creative industries.

High Commission of Singapore in London

Resident diplomatic missions

See also


  1. The United Kingdom (i.e. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales has 1 standard time zone. The overseas territories and crown dependencies bring the total to 9 time zones.
  2. First Secretary of State.
  3. Scots, Ulster Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic and Irish are classed as regional or minority languages under the Council of Europe's European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. These include defined obligations to promote those languages. See also Languages of the United Kingdom. Welsh has limited de jure official status in Wales, as well as in the provision of national government services provided for Wales.
  4. There is no authorised version of the national anthem as the words are a matter of tradition; only the first verse is usually sung. No law was passed making "God Save the Queen" the official anthem. In the English tradition, such laws are not necessary; proclamation and usage are sufficient to make it the national anthem. "God Save the Queen" also serves as the Royal anthem for certain Commonwealth realms. The words Queen, she, her, used at present (in the reign of Elizabeth II), are replaced by King, he, him, his when the monarch is male.
  5. Also referred to as the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom or Her Majesty's Armed Forces.


  1. "Population and Population Structure". Singstat. Department of Statistics Singapore. Archived from the original on 29 June 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  2. "World Population Prospects - Population Division - United Nations". Archived from the original on 4 June 2020. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  3. "Environment". Base. Archived from the original on 19 July 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  4. "Demographic Yearbook – Table 3: Population by sex, rate of population increase, surface area and density" (PDF). United Nations Statistics Division. 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 26 July 2018. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  5. "World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019". International Monetary Fund. Archived from the original on April 6, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  6. "Human Development Report 2019" (PDF). United Nations Development Programme. December 10, 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 22, 2017. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  7. "Rethinking the British Legacy – British Withdrawal and Origins of the Singapore Armed Forces, 1966-1971" (PDF). Pointer. Ministry of Defence (Singapore). 37 (2): 22–31. October 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-02-23. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  8. "Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Equipment and Logistics | Fuelling the front line". Archived from the original on 2020-03-14. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
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  10. "EU Centre". Archived from the original on 2020-09-10. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  11. "Britain keen to deepen defence ties with Singapore: Minister Philip Dunne". The Straits Times. February 15, 2016. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  12. "UK - SIN Trade and Investment". Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  13. "Foreign Visits". FCO UK. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  14. "All the queen's horses and all the president's gifts". The Straits Times. 27 October 2014. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  15. "SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN AT THE STATE BANQUET HOSTED BY QUEEN ELIZABETH II AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE, LONDON, 21 OCTOBER 2014". Office of the President of Singapore. 22 October 2014. Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  16. "British High Commission Singapore - GOV.UK". Archived from the original on 2020-07-08. Retrieved 2020-09-20.