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Theresa May And The UK’s Brexit Scramble For Africa

Dismissing predictions of economic catastrophe if the United Kingdom fails to reach a substantive withdrawal agreement with the European Union, including by her own ministers, the UK premier Theresa May is currently touring the continent of Africa in pursuit of post-Brexit trade deals with the region’s developing economies. The right-wing press in London is spinning the visit for all its worth, boosting the Conservative Party leader’s claims that Britain will become the largest external investor in Africa by 2050. Which will no doubt amuse the Chinese who have poured billions of dollars into the continent since the 1990s and whose road and railway networks criss-cross the region’s mineral- and oil-rich states.

Like the belief that the old British Commonwealth of Nations can replace the EU’s common market, the UK’s hopes of finding equal or superior wealth outside of Europe are largely delusional. A couple of cursory facts quickly dissipate London’s forlorn hopes of mercantile lebensraum. Combining the output of the separate economies of the African Union (AU), which consists of all fifty-five nation-states on the continent, and by measuring GDP through purchasing power parity (PPP) the organisation’s total economy equals some US$1.5 trillion. In contrast, the EU’s GDP via PPP is estimated to be US$22.0 trillion. And unlike the AU, that GDP exists under the aegis of a near-unitary single market and customs union. While Britain will continue to have substantial trade with and within Europe after its exit, the losses created by a no-agreement withdrawal are hardly going to be off-set by looking to Africa. Especially when the European Union already has major trade deals and partnerships across the continent.

10 comments on “Theresa May And The UK’s Brexit Scramble For Africa

  1. Yes. The right-wing loonies in the right wing loony party are going to destroy the UK economy. But hey, look on the bright side – they will probably as a by-product unite Ireland and instigate a free and independent Scotland within either the EU or at least the EEA, while destroying the last vestigial traces of English empire-related delusions of superiority. Apart from the inevitable collateral damage to all concerned, what’s not to like?


  2. Ageofstupid

    China is the new colonial power in Africa and 30 miles north of Dar Es Salaam,they are building a $10bn Chinese-built mega-port and a special economic zone backed by an Omani sovereign wealth fund. They have not coped it that the Empire is history and there place superseded by the Chinese Brexit will be an economic equivalent of the utter military defeat and shambles of the British invasion of Suez in 1956.


    • Last time I was in an African nation on the East coast the predominance of China was already the story. What a medium-sized former-colonial nation like the Disunited Kingdom does there alone is a footnote.

      I suspect Theresa May is there because she rather do anything else but return to the shambles in Westminster.

      From the Independent

      Theresa May has come under fire for claiming to have secured the UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal as it is merely a “rollover” of an existing EU agreement.

      Critics said the announcement – to replicate a deal with six southern African nations – fell far short of boasts, before the referendum, of a new free trade area much larger than the EU.

      They also pointed out that it came amid doubts about whether the UK will be able to retain deals the EU has struck recently with Canada and Japan – which are far bigger economies.

      Last year, Britain exported £2.4bn worth of goods to the six African countries included in Ms May’s deal – just 0.7 per cent of the value of its exports to the EU and the rest of the world combined, which were worth £339bn.


  3. The most telling aspect to me was the complaint from the Kenyan PM (IIRC) that no British PM had been there since Thatcher. That really says something about the self-interested approach from the UK – only going when they want something.


    • Yep. Running to the Commonwealth, to exploit the Commonwealth really, when it suits.

      The problem for the UK is that much of the developed Commonwealth has its eyes on the EU and its 500 million plus consumer market. Those that don’t are at the nastier end of the political spectrum. They guys who won’t match the EU’s preferred way of doing things, from democracy to regulations.

      The Brits can sell chlorinated chicken to Africa – an unlikely trade item, by the by – but the dodgier regimes there have their own dubious items they wish to sell to the Brits. Free of “onerous” EU-encouraged H&S restrictions.

      The real story in all this, and the core of May’s visit, was feeling out possible trade deals on military and security equipment, from the UK to the continent. If, as reports claim, the UK is considering the liberalisation of its rules governing the arms trade in a post-EU environment that may become an even more important trade to the country.


      • That alone – re the UK upping its military export efforts – makes the lexiter argument seem so bizarre given that this was always going to be a Tory Brexit.


      • The arms industry is about the only industry the UK has that could thrive in a post-Brexit but to what degree would market opportunities be curtailed by the political realities of alliances with the US, NATO, EU?


        • But with Trump in power and UK-EU relations rock bottom, now is the time to hit the arms market button. All those licenses are as much a matter of government policy as international agreements. The Tories need an economic win whatever happens, hard or soft Brexit. Someone has to buy all those armoured jeeps beside the PSNI!


          • All true. For as long as it lasts. Not sure how much scope there is for growth in the UK’s arms exports, nor would any dramatic increase begin to come anywhere near making up for the loss of exports everywhere else.

            Tories appear to be working hard to paint themselves into a no-deal corner.


            • Agree completely, it’s what makes this so cosmetic, unless they know something we don’t there’s no growth that would make up the shortfall…


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