The Commonwealth: there’s a big world beyond Europe and its political union

In this article, Verity Barton highlights the importance of the Commonwealth and what role it can play in Britain's future trade policy.

"The Commonwealth and its 2.4 billion people across 53 nations can and should be the foundation, not only of a trading Britain, but a truly global Britain."

The Commonwealth, officially known as the Commonwealth of Nations, perfectly represents the many and great opportunities for Britain as she finally, well… hopefully, leaves the shackles of the European Union and its single market and customs union. The Commonwealth represents the coming together of our history and our future after a schism nearly half a century ago.

Free trade – both with Europe and the rest of the world, particularly the Commonwealth, – will be central to Britain’s economy as it continues to grow and go from strength to strength in the years to come. Britain has a strong and great history as a trading nation and there are countries standing ready, willing and able to negotiate and agree free and open trade agreements with the UK, provided, of course, Britain herself can. Large trading nations spring immediately to mind: The United States, Japan, South Korea, China, Australia; but it’s not just these large economies that we should be concentrating on.

The PM’s trip to Africa was memorable for many reasons, not least her new moniker as a Dancing Queen; but we shouldn’t lose sight of why she went in the first place: to talk about trade and investment in Africa. There are opportunities in Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific and the Americas – now is the perfect opportunity for our government to grasp the nettle and build those connections and relationships.

Some, often those who voted Remain and support staying in the single market and the customs union, are quick to say that trade with the rest of the world won’t replace trade we currently have with Europe; but here’s the rub – it shouldn’t have to! There shouldn’t be this dichotomy, this isn’t an either/or question – why can’t we have both!?

Over recent years our trade with countries outside the Eurozone has increased; as we have the opportunity to trade on favourable, mutually agreeable terms this can only but grow. The Conservative Party, a party which believes in free markets, low taxes, free trade and encouraging business, should be champing at the bit to strike trade deals and deliver not only business opportunities but employment opportunities both here in the UK and abroad.

The Conservative Party’s 2017 Election Manifesto mentions trade nearly 40 times. It talks about Britain taking on a truly global role. The Commonwealth and its 2.4 billion people across 53 nations can and should be the foundation, not only of a trading Britain, but a truly global Britain.

Addressing the party faithful, the all-important grass roots, at the 2018 Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister spoke of Britain renewing our role in the world, striking new trade deals with other countries; she said, “There’s a whole world out there. Let’s lift our horizons to meet it.”

There’s your challenge, Prime Minister; truly look beyond Brussels and make Britain the outward-looking nation we know she can be.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author.

Having undertaken studies in law and politics at Bond University, Australia and Northwestern Law in Chicago, Verity worked in Queensland and Commonwealth politics with the Liberal Party in Australia. She is now a Consultant in Public Policy in the City of London and a Conservative Party activist in Wandsworth.

Follow Verity on twitter