Just six weeks after the Brexit referendum, in August 2016, I wrote a column about its potential effects on the Middle East and Africa. Few were happy, many were shocked and almost all were left without a clue of about how to manage this gigantic task. More then two years later and just few weeks before the Brexit deadline, the situation is generally the same but all parties are united in their frustration about the political decision-making process and the uncertainty they have to deal with up to the last minute.
The post-Brexit UK intends overcome the challenges ahead by relying on its close economic and military relationship with its allies, its global diplomacy expertise and its strong network, specifically within the 54 Commonwealth countries out of which 19 are African. With UK companies controlling resources of an estimated $1000bn on the African continent, it is crucial to ensure a stable framework for free trade without tariff or other barriers. Currently this relationship is mainly regulated by Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU and will have to be re-established bilaterally after Brexit.
This gives the UK, but also the African countries, the opportunity to negotiate a better deal for their future to boost trade and investment activities. Then again, all this must happen before the upcoming deadline under the scenario of a successful Brexit deal between the UK and the EU. A no-deal Brexit will leave all African countries without EPAs with the UK, resulting in bureaucratic chaos and unregulated trade.
This simple scenario shows that with implementation of Brexit, the real work for the UK and its trade partners and allies will begin. The rules of collaboration and competition will change, and all parties will do their best to optimise their position. This brings us back to my column from 2016: “With the conservative US presidential candidate Donald Trump officially putting ‘America First’ as his slogan for the upcoming elections, we may have two major countries that will quite aggressively pursue their national interest globally.” Mr Trump is already putting America first, and all other leaders will probably follow his example. Thus, egotism will dominate and other urgent global matters such as sustainable goals or climate change will be pushed down the political agenda.
Mazdak Rafaty is managing partner of Ludwar International Consultancy and SME adviser to the joint Emirati-German Chamber of Commerce. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org