For a couple of decades, on and off, I have been keeping an eye on ZA’s trade relations with the EU. Now that the Brits are Brexiting, there are a number of uncertainties and concerns for us.
As one of the most astute ZA commentators and Euro-watchers Dr John Mare suggested to me over what turned out to be a deeply indigestible Col Caccio pizza (not John’s fault – it was probably the raw onions), there are a number of scenarios.
I won’t bore you with them all, save to note that the EU currently has a trade treaty with ZA and its neighbours, and in theory Britain’s exiting from the EU will mean exiting from this relationship, which currently gives us preferential access to the EU (including UK) market.
The most elegant way out of this would be if the EU would just roll over everything in its relationship with ZA, Tippexing out all the references to the UK, and if Britain were to adopt it all, bilaterally, without any fuss.
However, there is always the temptation to meddle, to seek a slightly better deal.
Let us remember that the ‘Club Med’ members of the EU fought hard to water down the agricultural concessions which have been given to ZA in the past, and imposed all sorts of protectionist nonsense – like the rules which prevent us from calling our sherry ‘sherry’ and our port ‘port.’ And don’t get me started on Champagne. Or rather do – as a drink but not as a topic for debate.
Remember, too, that Europe liked Mandela and was happy to lavish him with support. Jacob Zuma is a very different creature, and far less loved internationally.
So there is scope for damage to ZA’s trade interests, both in new negotiations with Britain and in preserving what it has achieved in negotiations with pre-Brexit Brussels.
We must also recognise that ZA won’t be the top of the agenda in London or Brussels, as there is an avalanche of EU red tape which will need to be Brexited, and trade relations with SA have never been front of the queue.
One encouraging development was the appointment by Theresa May of Liam Fox in a new post as International Trade Minister.
Were I ZA’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies I would be hounding Fox day and night. Not with real hounds, though.
NB: Having worked alongside Boris Johnson when I was in the Brussels Press Corp I have only one reason to welcome his appointment as Britain’s new Foreign Secretary. At least he didn’t make it into 10 Downing Street.
Tweet of the Day:
Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage): The appointment of @DavidDavisMP & @LiamFoxMP to Brexit and International Trade roles are inspired choices. I feel more optimistic now.
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