Except this isn’t a big deal. It’s not even a new deal. It’s the first of dozens of deals the UK needs to secure just to keep the same beneficial trading terms with over 60 other countries which we now enjoy as members of the EU. If you remember, these are the “roll over” deals Liam Fox promised to have ready “one second after midnight” on March 29 2019. Doubts have since been cast on the ease with which this can be achieved.
The government’s triumphant comments around this southern African pact are laughable. The deal will allow UK shoppers “to continue to enjoy southern African wine, tea and fruits”, we’re told. It will provide the “strong foundations on which we can build a closer trade and investment partnership in the future” – foundations which were already in place and only at risk of being eroded thanks to Brexit!
Demand a vote on the final Brexit deal
In the grand scale of UK trade, these six nations aren’t a huge deal either – the other countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. Last year the UK exported £2.4 billion worth of goods to southern Africa – just 0.7% of its total exports. We still stand to lose preferential access to much bigger markets elsewhere in the globe, not least the EU’s single market which accounts for around half our trade, as well as Japan and Canada.
Brexit also threatens to undermine the “closer trade and investment partnership” the government wants with the African continent. Analysis shows that in any Brexit scenario the UK economy will be smaller than it would be if we stay in the EU. In relation to Africa, that means less to spend on overseas development projects, less to invest in African economies, and fewer trading opportunities for African businesses in a less dynamic UK economy.
The way in which Brexit will make us less able to strike deals around the world shows “Global Britain” for the empty Brexiter rhetoric it really is. It’s nothing to dance about.