Brexit and the customs union: How does it affect South Africa?

Flickr / Tyler Merbler

Don’t forget South African market post-Brexit, UK businesses send clear message to government

Days before the inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting in London, new research reveals an overwhelming majority of British businesses want to see the Government prioritise trade deals with the Commonwealth post-Brexit.

Brexit and the customs union: How does it affect South Africa?

Flickr / Tyler Merbler

Polling commissioned by The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) and PLMR shows that South Africa is in fifth place as a priority for the UK’s business community for trade opportunities with Commonwealth countries post-Brexit. 70% of British businesses think that the Government should prioritise trade with South Africa. Notably, South Africa climbs to second place with London business leaders, one behind Canada.

90% of businesses think that the Government should prioritise trade with Australia. Canada and Singapore are a joint second priority for business leaders with 82%. New Zealand and India are third and fourth priorities with 79% and 72% respectively.

In addition, over 50% of British businesses said they would want the UK Government to prioritise trade with Malaysia. 40% identified Kenya as a key market, while almost one third of businesses see the Commonwealth Caribbean region as an important market.

These findings are reinforced by Dr. Linda Yueh, RCS Trustee, Adjunct Professor at London Business School, and Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford University who said: ‘As the UK government plans new trade deals after Brexit, it is worth reactivating the long-standing trading relationships embedded within the network of 52 nations comprising the Commonwealth. As smaller economies than the US, China, and EU, it may be possible to conclude trade deals more quickly with these Commonwealth nations and allow Britain to gain the benefits of trade as well as notch up more practical experience in negotiating deals before it tackles the biggest countries in the world.’

Lord Marland, Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, said: ‘The RCS’ work on this issue is particularly relevant as we are hosting the first ever Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting, in London, on 9th March. Clearly there is demand amongst businesses for a renewed focus on growth and investment across the Commonwealth and we are very pleased to work with the RCS on driving this agenda and supporting businesses.’

Kevin Craig, Founder and CEO of PLMR, said: ‘These polling results chime with PLMR’s experiences in providing professional services to UK businesses. There is enormous appetite to trade in goods and services abroad. Small businesses are at times put off by the perceived risks of going international, but they recognise the great opportunities from high-growth markets in Africa and Asia.’

The RCS provided complementary polling of its 62 branches across the Commonwealth and its Associate Follows, a network of young leaders. It showed that 79% of respondents agree or strongly agree that their country shouldcreate a trade agreement with the UK within the next to two years post-Brexit.

The Government will need to meet the demand and expectations highlighted by this polling. Alternatively, it risks disappointing UK businesses and Commonwealth citizens, including its young people.

The Royal Commonwealth Society, founded in 1868, is a network of individuals and organisations committed to improving the lives and prospects of Commonwealth citizens around the world. Through youth empowerment, education and advocacy, the RCS promotes the value and values of the Commonwealth.