UK and Commonwealth trade post-Brexit

UK and Commonwealth trade post-Brexit

TRANSCRIPT (captions available in video):

(Julia Magntorn) Recent figures suggest that the Commonwealth account for around 9% of UK exports and 8% of UK imports. That’s not insignificant but in terms of magnitude it’s still a lot smaller than for example the UK’s trade with the EU. So there are 53 countries in the Commonwealth, three of those are currently in the European Union. So that’s the UK, Cyprus and Malta. So, taking the 50 countries that are not in the EU, the EU currently has trade agreements in place with half of those Commonwealth countries and there are further EU agreements in the pipeline. Such as negotiations undergoing with India and Australia. The UK by being a member of the EU already has trade agreements in place with half of the Commonwealth countries and in order to make sure that those benefits are retained post-Brexit, a very important thing for the UK is to make sure that those agreements are rolled over post-Brexit so that the UK can maintain the advantages of those trade agreements when it is no longer a member of the EU. If it doesn’t do that then the UK actually risks more restricted access to some Commonwealth markets than it has today. There are opportunities in some countries such as Australia or India where there is currently no EU trade agreement in place even though the EU is negotiating with those countries. And that’s where there could be potential for the UK to, you know,if they sign a trade agreement with those countries, there could be potential for the UK to increase its exports to those markets.But again, it’s important to understand, those trade agreements, trade negotiations, are not necessarily going to be straight forward or smooth as the EU negotiations have shown. So in international trade, it’s not all about tariffs. That’s, you know, an important thing but, other things matter as well. Distance matters because it affects transportation costs; regulations matter, they can act as an administrative burden for suppliers that want to export or import. So, in terms of the Commonwealth, these countries are spread out all over the world and they’re very diverse. That means that Britain trading for example with its neighbour, Ireland, is going to be a lot easier in terms of transportation costs, for example, than trading with Australia which is on the other side of the world. Those things matter. Among those top Commonwealth countries that the UK trade with, the UK already has a free trade agreement with Canada, and with South Africa, through its membership of the EU. So, for Australia for example, there has been some positives or indications from the Australian side that they are willing to sign a trade agreement or want to negotiate a trade agreement with the UK but, it will come with concessions. So I think in terms of, for example, a negotiation with India, the EU negotiations with India have shown that some issues where actually the UK have been a factor as to why the negotiations have moved so slowly is on visa restrictions. It’s likely that there would at least be a negotiation between India and the UK on how to handle visa restrictions and that has been a contentious issue in the EU negotiations and it’s likely to still be a difficult issue to resolve in the UK-India negotiations.


Julia Magntorn is a research assistant at the UK Trade Policy Observatory, based out of the University of Sussex.

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