I have two threads running under this blog title. 1. Brexit, 2. Asia and Asia’s Century. Today I will look at the combination of the two and how it matters, of course once we have the courage to finally leave the regulatory constraints of the EU.
Commonwealth, NAFTA, English Speaking Nations
The UK has a great deal to be pleased about, we have links throughout the world. Links that have stood the test of time, with many countries that will soon be deemed Goliath’s in terms of their economic capacity. Then there is NAFTA an association that we would be able to step into with great ease, indeed the door has already been opened. We have the five eyes some of which overlaps with NAFTA, then of course we have the Commonwealth of Nations by all accounts a remarkable progressive group of nations, these in part overlap with NAFTA and the five eyes.
We have allowed this group to fade in our consciousness which has been in a way not helpful in terms of our relationships in or outside of Europe, for these nations economies can no longer be deemed insignificant, India for example will soon become the 4th largest economy. Collectively their GDP represents an enormous opportunity to the UK. This is an organization versed in our legal system making trading easily possible. English is the major language forming excellent communication routes, and of course our Monarch is the head of the Commonwealth. In an illustration below I highlight a book by David Howell a former Conservative Cabinet Minister, titled “Old Links New Ties”. In it he emphasizes that the Commonwealth is a ‘network stretching across 54 independent nations, embracing 16 realms and 38 republics or other monarchies and somewhere above 2 billion people, just about a third of the human race – and on paper at least an economic colossus with 20 per cent of the world’s trade and growth prospects that would make European eyes green with envy’.
I make much of Asia and the growth this region represents and of course our ties are historic throughout this region. For me I have focussed on Indonesia, primarily as this is a country that has captivated me since the early 90s. But let’s be mindful this region whilst it has many ties to the realm of course it is only part of the story. Several dynamic, economically progressive African nations they to have links to the UK. These bonds surpass cocktail parties and banter amongst the embassy elite, although these are important, these countries armies are plugged into the UK system, from Sandhurst to Whitehall the links are formidable. Then you have health, legal systems, trade practises, monarchy etc. the historic bonds of time are in place and will serve us well.
Many economic observers foresee the African economies as being on the cusp of significant growth much the same as the tiger economies of the past. Sadly when the UK joined the EU in 1973 our ties were downgraded within the Commonwealth. We deemed the Commonwealth passé perhaps not our smartest endeavour given the stifling regulation that has come down the Euro pipe.
It’s not my intention to overplay the Commonwealth. Of course, they are a group of nations not an organized trading bloc within a “Customs union” such that the EU is. However, David Howell makes a significant point that in today’s technological environment such blocs are yesterday’s story, the future belongs in the increasingly networked, digital world’s that these countries have been at pains to develop as their cities emerged into modern metropolis’. What the Commonwealth offers its members is a set of connections and linkages that facilitate trade. At the heart of it lies the English language and similar institutional and legal structures based on the British model. There has even been a suggestion of creating a Commonwealth investment bank, a Commonwealth business visa and a Commonwealth airport queue. Even though these do not sound like game-changers, the possibilities from increased Commonwealth trade should not be lightly dismissed. After all, the EU began with the humble-sounding European Coal and Steel Community.
From remain side of the argument there is great store that the UK is too small. We will never be able to go it alone. Then you reference say Singapore, you then have the argument; they are small and dynamic, a niche player if you like you can not compare a UK as though it is Singapore. It seems the argument is circular, you have to be large or small you can not be mid sized for here we will wither and die. This is a misnomer as the UK is still the 5th or 6th largest economy, it’s larger than Russia, Brazil or India.
UK An Economic Giant
It is time to show courage and insist we leave, and hope the Eurozone adapts and returns sovereignty to the nation states. But alas if you listen to Verhofstadt his mantra is always to transfer sovereignty into Europe.
Thank you for reading my ramblings.