UK seeks trade boost in Commonwealth as final Brexit talks begin
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday extolled the benefits of free trade among Commonwealth countries, seeking new sources of commerce as Britain looks to finalize divorce terms with the EU.
May is looking to win the support of the Commonwealth, a network of mostly former British colonies, for future trade deals at a meeting of its leaders in London, and bolster her argument that the future is bright after Brexit.
The Commonwealth, headed by Queen Elizabeth, is not a formal trading bloc with a free-trade agreement. In 2015 it accounted for only 9 percent of British exports while by contrast the EU accounted for around 44 percent.
Speaking at the opening of a Commonwealth business forum, May urged the use of common standards across the network of 53 countries, warning that global growth was fragile and that protectionism posed a clear threat to the world economy.
“With its unique scope and global voice, such a Commonwealth can set a powerful example to the world, one that demonstrates and underlines the importance of protecting free trade and the rules-based international order,” she said.
“Freer and easier trade means stronger economies, more jobs, more choice and lower prices.”
Britain’s appeal to the Commonwealth comes as Brexit negotiators prepare to begin work on a future trade agreement with the EU, which the government hopes will allow frictionless trade with the bloc to continue.
May’s ministers have spent much of their time since the 2016 exit vote touring the globe, touting Britain’s ability to negotiate its own trade deals with countries including Commonwealth states such as Australia, India and New Zealand as one of the main benefits of life outside the EU.