Once upon a time, Great Britain had an Empire, the largest the world had seen.
By the early 20th Century the British Empire held sway over almost a quarter of the world’s population, some 412 million people. By 1920 it covered 13,700,000 sq miles (35,500,000 km2) which again was almost a quarter of the world’s land area.
The end of World War II also heralded the end of the British Empire with many Countries, in a mostly peaceful and orderly fashion, breaking away and gaining their independence. But the Empire didn’t die, it simply changed and eventually became The Commonwealth.
With 52 countries who are members of the Commonwealth, countries span the globe from Africa to Asia, the Americas to Europe and across the Pacific. Its people are diverse, as are the member states with some of the world’s poorest, richest, largest and smallest states. That’s a combined population of 2.3 billion people.
This is the new audience Britain will be able to do business with on its own, with no interference from the EU, after Brexit at the end of March 2019. These are the countries Britain used to trade with prior to joining the EU. Though the EU has trade deals with many countries, non of the EU member states have as strong ties with the UK as the Commonwealth member states do. Most are ex-British Empire countries, which used to be part of the Empire and, indeed, the original criteria to be a member state of the Commonwealth is you had to have been part of the British Empire. Membership criteria has changed over the years with new members, Mozambique is a good example, who are member states that were never part of the British Empire.
New trade deals with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the USA (not a member of The Commonwealth) are already being lined up by Britain in anticipation of leaving the EU. In terms of trade only, the UK may be able to replace the single EU market with exclusive deals between Commonwealth countries and of course non-commonwealth countries such as the USA and China. Such trade deals, over time, may see changes with Britain’s shopping habits where we buy New Zealand Chardonnay with Australian Jindi Brie Cheese, Canadian Syrah with South African Gruyere and maybe even Chinese or American luxury cars rather than German Mercedes and BMWs.
The future for Britain may have looked glum after the Brexit referendum in 2016 and after last weeks disaster of an Election, but if history proves anything, Britain will always bounce back despite overwhelming odds against it.
Tom Kane © 2017
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