New figures obtained by the People’s Vote campaign from the House of Commons library show that the prospects for massively enhancing UK trade with the Commonwealth post-Brexit are extremely limited. Most UK trade with the Commonwealth is with countries where there is an existing trade deal in place through the EU, or where one is already in the process of being negotiated.
According to the House of Commons library, just 8.9% of UK exports in 2016 went to Commonwealth countries. Of this, just 3.1% went to Commonwealth countries with whom the UK doesn’t already have a trade deal in place through EU membership, or Commonwealth countries with whom the EU is not currently negotiating a trade deal. By contrast, roughly 43% of UK exports went to EU countries in 2016.
Commenting, Chris Leslie MP, member of the parliamentary International Trade Committee and leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“These new figures underline how ludicrous it is to suggest that we need to leave the EU in order to do more trade with the Commonwealth: we have spent years improving our terms of trade with Commonwealth countries through trade deals negotiated together with our EU partners.
“Crashing out of the Customs Union would jeopardise our existing trade with the EU and with the Commonwealth, with the only benefit being that Liam Fox is given something to do with his spare time. It is a fool’s errand.
“With Brexit putting our existing trade at risk, and with the prospect of new trade deals nowhere to be seen, we should let the people decide whether this is the right path for the country through a People’s Vote on the terms of Brexit.”
Notes to editors
The full stats obtained from the House of Commons Library on UK trade with the Commonwealth can be read below:
- UK exports of goods and services to the Commonwealth accounted for 8.9% of all British exports (roughly the same as UK exports to Germany); UK exports to the EU accounted for 43.1% of all UK exports.
- UK imports of goods and services accounted for 7.8% of all British imports (roughly the same as UK imports from China); UK imports from the EU accounted for 53.9% of all UK imports.
- Combined, UK exports of goods and services to Cyprus and Malta were worth £2.1 billion – this was the equivalent of 0.9% of UK exports to the EU and 4.4% of UK exports to the Commonwealth.
- Combined, UK imports of goods and services to Cyprus and Malta were worth £2.2 billion – this was the equivalent of 0.7% of UK imports from the EU and 4.9% of UK imports from the Commonwealth.
To date, the EU has an applied preferential trade agreement (in the form of a Free Trade Agreement or an Economic Partnership Agreement) with the following Commonwealth states:
- Canada – the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) entered into force provisionally in September 2017
- Cameroon signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU in 2009.
- The SADC EPA Group includes the Commonwealth states of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
- The CARIFORUM-EU EPA includes the Commonwealth states of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago.
- Papua New Guinea and Fiji
Combined, these countries accounted for 29.8% of UK exports to the Commonwealth and 28.0% of UK imports from the Commonwealth.
The EU has ongoing negotiations on preferential trade agreements (in the form of a Free Trade Agreement or an Economic Partnership Agreement) with the following Commonwealth countries:
- The Association of South East Asian Nations, including the Commonwealth member states of Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore
- 11 Eastern and Southern Africa countries, including the Commonwealth member states of Malawi, Zambia, Mauritius and the Seychelles
- The Eastern African Community including the Commonwealth member states of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda
- The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), including the Commonwealth member states of Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Combined these countries accounted for 34.4% of UK exports to the Commonwealth and 39.0% of UK imports from the Commonwealth.
- 29.8% of UK exports to the Commonwealth are already covered by EU FTAs
- 64.2% of UK exports to the Commonwealth are with countries that either have or are negotiating a trade deal with the EU
- 8.9% of total UK exports go to the Commonwealth. Based on the above figures, we have therefore calculated that just 3.1% of total UK exports go to Commonwealth countries with whom we neither have nor are negotiating a trade deal with through membership of the EU