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UK-Africa trade after Brexit will not be straightforward

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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

UK-Africa trade after Brexit will not be straightforward

Calls for a post-Brexit return to the Commonwealth ignore the existing privileged EU-Africa trade relationship as well as the UK’s now diminished trade influence, argues Peg Murray-Evans. In a speech to the Institute of Chartered Engineers in February, David Davis MP – now Secretary of State for Exiting the EU – told the audience: ‘The only Commonwealth country to enjoy a free trade agreement with the EU so far is South Africa.’ In fact, there are free trade agreements either awaiting adoption or in force between the EU and 32 Commonwealth countries. Regardless of its accuracy, Davis’s assertion reflects a broader narrative put forward by the ‘liberal leavers’ in the Brexit campaign. Their argument was that membership of the‘protectionist’ EU constrains the UK’s ability to make trade links with the wider world – and particularly with Britain’s apparently natural partners in the Commonwealth. One might therefore be forgiven for thinking that in the wake of the Brexit vote on 23 June we are about to witness a reinvigoration of UK trade links with Africa – the continent that is home to the largest number of Commonwealth members (18 out of 53). Yet, while the UK outside the EU may well look to maintain equivalence with existing European trade agreements in Africa, it is unlikely that these will be extended or reformed and the UK will lose the significant influence it once had in shaping EU trade policy towards Africa.

Source: blogs.lse.ac.uk