Brexit — a fantastic opportunity for Britain to forge new relationship with Commonwealth

Shaun Bailey

Saturday, July 16, 2016

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I would be exaggerating if I said that I expected the "Leave" campaign to win the referendum. In the final few days leading up to the result, the polls were unanimously telling us that the "Remain" campaign had done enough to win.

I woke up the next day to find that "Leave" had triumphed. I was both surprised and excited. Surprised that the polls were proven wrong, yet again, and excited that the British public, in the face of all of the doom and gloom, were brave enough to believe that Britain had a bright future outside of the European Union.

However, the optimism I felt was somewhat dampened by the ensuing narrative in the media, which was dominated by an overwhelming sense of impending disaster for the country. "The country is ruined!"; "We’ve become an isolated little island!" were two phrases I heard regularly throughout the past week. Many in the "Remain" camp shamefully led cries to have the result of the referendum overturned.

I want to take particular issue with the idea that the vote to leave will transform Britain into an isolated little island, which suggests that our vote to leave the European Union signals our decline as a globally minded, outward-looking nation. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, not Europe. Whatever deal is settled on, we will continue to trade and cooperate with our continental cousins.

The European Union is the world’s largest economic trading bloc if you count the number of nations signed up to the EU. However, it is also the only trading bloc that is in decline across the world. This is reflected in our export figures.

For example, according to the Office of National Statistics, we now export more goods to countries outside of Europe than within it. Furthermore, we now have a record-high trade deficit in goods with the European Union of £8.1 billion.

Meanwhile, economies in the Commonwealth and Anglosphere are thriving. For example, the International Monetary Fund forecasts that, by 2019, the Commonwealth will contribute 17.7 per cent to the world’s output, overtaking the European Union’s estimated 15.3 per cent. This suggests that in the years to come, global economic prosperity will be found more readily outside of the EU than within it.

One of the many opportunities leaving the European Union creates is the chance for us to improve our relationship with the Commonwealth — a relationship that we have been forced to neglect since we joined the European Union.

By improving our relationship with the Commonwealth, we will create a fantastic opportunity for countries like Jamaica to step up to the plate and enter the global stage in an even bigger way to benefit your businesses and ours.

Following our vote to leave the European Union, Commonwealth nations are already making moves to forge closer diplomatic ties and beneficial trade deals with the UK, and this can be replicated across the world.

For example, the Business Secretary Sajid Javid stated that we are set for discussions with Australia. In addition, New Zealand has already offered to send its best trade negotiators to the United Kingdom to help us prepare for the forthcoming trade negotiations with the EU and the world.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has opened the door for Jamaica to take advantage of the new societal and economic opportunities this creates. As a son of the Jamaican Diaspora, I am particularly keen to ensure that Britain takes advantage of the opportunities created after the referendum and boost economic ties with Jamaica to benefit both nations.

It is important to note that any relationship Jamaica previously had with the EU will remain. However, what will change is their opportunity to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with Britain.

Another benefit of leaving the EU is that the thorny issue of immigration will be looked at again, giving some hope for the implementation of a fair immigration policy which does not discriminate against those from outside the EU and allowing Britain to control the immigration numbers. The decision to seek to reduce immigration numbers whilst within the EU forced the home secretary to put a lot of pressure on non-EU immigration. Our decision to leave the EU means that we have the chance to decide how much immigration the UK wishes to allow each year and then judge every case on its merits, regardless of where the person hails from.

It is also worth noting that being a member of the EU meant accepting the imposition of tariffs, which were not in the interests of UK consumers or developing nations that wished to trade with us. Furthermore, those tariffs were certainly not in the interests of improving our relationship with the Commonwealth and the world. That may finally change.

Britain has a long-established shared history with the Commonwealth. This shared past gave us the strong cultural links, business practices and common legal systems we see today. The public’s brave decision to vote to leave the European Union means that we can now assert ourselves as a truly global nation, with the Commonwealth at the heart of our ambition to become a greater country.

Shaun Bailey is a Member of the London Assembly for the Conservative Party. He is of Jamaican descent and served as special advisor on youth and crime (2010-2013) to former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.


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