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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Brexit UK’s Empire 2.0 vision for Africa

A deeper UK engagement with African trade is sensible and beneficial, however, negotiators will need to wake up to complexities of hashing out any deals on the continent. When The Times reported that some Whitehall officials had been using the term ‘Empire 2.0’ to describe post-Brexit UK’s campaign to cosy up to its former colonies, there was a significant backlash among some members of the 52-state Commonwealth. Yet despite the unofficial branding, the official line is one of reciprocal trade deals and closer foreign policy – both of which will be welcome to the UK and its allies. The UK has already begun the diplomatic maneuvering to get the work done, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ouring countries such as Uganda, Ghana, Kenya and The Gambia (which recently announced intentions to rejoin the Commonwealth) last month. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond also stopped by South Africa in December, and Liam Fox, Trade Secretary, hosted ministers from the Commonwealth on 9th – 10th March in London. Far from the EU’s cold shoulder, in some cases Africa has spoken back. Ghana was the first African country to throw its hat in the ring under its previous administration (Ghana changed leadership in December) readying its delegation as early as June. Regional giant South Africa also expressed interest, with Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies visiting Fox in London in late January. That said, however well-intentioned, lofty statements of a Commonwealth revitalised need to start factoring in pretty serious challenges to the master plan. Dealing with an African FTA One highly optimistic scenario the UK government is gunning for in the long term is a situation where it is in talks with an Africa-wide free trade area (FTA). The idea stems from 2011, when Commonwealth states agreed in principle to create an African FTA. The EU’s experience of dealing with African trade deals through Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) thus far offers lessons. Up until now, the EU has engaged the continent in country groups (a) partly by necessity given that many African countries are bound by the rules of their own trade blocs, which require them to act as a group, and (b) because diplomatically speaking, the continent is a patchwork of divergent interests that could not be unanimously appeased.

Source: Global Riskin Sights