In light of the Commonwealth Games, UK government and businesses are seeing the possibilities of how important the relationship between the UK and countries like Australia are to make up for the loss of the EU in a post Brexit landscape.
At least 30 heads of state or government from the Commonwealth’s 53 member states are expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London between 16-20 April.
Commonwealth officials hope Brexit will help fuel a new wave of interest in the organisation from London. Australia, Canada and New Zealand have been among the most enthusiastic to form a new free trade agreement with the UK after it leaves the EU.
Commonwealth trade ministers agreed to deepen economic ties by seeking some of the same standardisation that once frustrated eurosceptics in Brussels.
Britain would harmonise regulations with its former colonies rather than the European Union under new proposals for trade integration that critics have dubbed Empire 2.0.
Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland has outlined the similarities between the two nations and how they can have a beneficial cohesive relationship.
“Because we share common law, common language, common institutions and common parliamentary structures, that has given us a de facto advantage,”
“That … advantage is something which we as a Commonwealth are absolutely determined to exploit and to grow, and at this meeting today we were able to have a comprehensive opportunity to consider how in practice we do that.”
Though still a long way from the extensive regulations of the EU single market, British leaders of the Commonwealth see a growing formal role for the body in economic harmonisation.
They would like to see the development of a standard of rules that could be a Commonwealth accord, which identifies common business practices within the Commonwealth countries to subscribe to.
But the British government should tread cautiously in assuming that other Commonwealth countries would automatically welcome the new-found interest, especially after many were cut off from UK markets when it joined the European common market.
It would be fairly straightforward to small to medium UK businesses to start trading to Australia with international shipping of products becoming cheaper and easier all the time.
But overall, there are lots of critics to the view that the Commonwealth is a ready-made replacement to the EU, one of which is political analyst Ian Jack who says,
“On paper, the facts remain compelling. The countries of the Commonwealth spread across a fifth of the world’s land surface, contain nearly a third of the world’s population and produce around 15% of the world’s wealth (depending on the measure used).
The organisation defines itself as a “diverse community of 53 nations that work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace”. Friendly politicians call it a useful talking shop. Many people in its constituent countries have never heard of it, or know the name only because of the games. Both its longevity and its apparent importance owe a lot to the enthusiasm of the Queen and the international affection for her”.
So just because the UK has the bond of the Commonwealth with many of these countries and can get a long together in events like the Commonwealth Games, it doesn’t mean they we can do guarantee business with them to replace the EU.
So as the UK Government looks for alternative trade partners in a post-Brexit world, countries like Australia in the Commonwealth are a good and obvious choice however they cannot guarantee the same amount of trade as the EU and it may not be an easy transition if Commonwealth countries chose to impose any tariffs or cost to trade with the UK.
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