What Brexit Means For Africans, And How South Africans Living In UK Could Swing The Vote

What Brexit Means For Africans, And How South Africans Living In UK Could Swing The Vote

Depending on who you ask, the U.K.’s exit from the European Union could mean more direct trade for Africans, better incentives for African farmers, and renegotiated economic agreements for African trading blocs.

South Africans living in Britain could be the swing vote.

The U.K. should be able to secure its own trade deals with African countries, says James Cleverly, a pro-Brexit Tory MP who says European Union policy in Africa is “morally repugnant,” HuffingtonPost reported.

“The E.U.’s tariff regime disincentivizes exactly the kind of investment that Africa needs to lift itself out of poverty and aid dependency,” said Cleverly, whose mother is from Sierra Leone. “I cannot understand how anyone who is African, or of African heritage, or who cares about Africa and her people, or cares about anyone trapped in poverty in the developing world, can, with a clear conscience, allow this situation to persist.”

Remain campaign MPs Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah disagreed with Cleverly and dropped names to bolster their argument.

“Trying to hijack the fight against poverty to push an anti-E.U. agenda really is a new low for the chaotic and desperate leave campaign,” they said, according to HuffingtonPost. “Inside the E.U., Britain is a more powerful force in spreading equality and justice in the world. It magnifies our spending power and increases British influence. That’s the opinion of the former U.N. head of humanitarian relief, the chair of World Wildlife Fund … and many more.”

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South Africans have a vested interest for Brexit, Fin24 reported. About 500,000 South Africans living in the U.K. are entitled to vote June 23 in the Brexit Referendum thanks to South Africa’s Commonwealth membership. In a vote considered too-close-to-call, they could make the difference.

Pundits on both sides agree on the short-term consequences of Britain leaving the E.U. — a weaker Sterling, housing prices dropping 20 percent; and a tighter job market. All this would suit South Africans living in the U.K., Fin24 reported.

If it breaks from the E.U., the U.K. would cease to be party to any of the E.U.’s trade agreements, IndependentOnline reported.

The U.K.’s possible exit from the E.U. could require a renegotiation of the recently signed E.U.-Southern African Development Community (SADC) Economic Partnership Agreement,

The agreement promised South Africa certain protections in the trade of wines and spirits, along with protecting trade names such as rooibos and honeybush.

Brait South Africa, whose biggest shareholder is South African billionaire Christo Wiese, increased its exposure to the U.K. in 2015, acquiring majority stakes in Virgin Active and clothing retailer New Look and increasing its holding in discount grocer Iceland.

They are prepared for either outcome of the Brexit referendum, according to Brait CEO John Gnodde.

Hanns Spangenberg, a senior economist at NKC African Economics, said the U.K.’s possible withdrawal from the E.U. has heightened risk anxiety in broader emerging markets, with investors seeking safe-haven destinations like the U.S., IndependentOnline reported.

Brexit will help Africa have a stronger relationship with the U.K., said the British minister for Africa in an RFI interview. The U.K. will no longer be forced to view Africa through the “prism” of the E.U. but will “deepen” its direct relations with African countries and other countries which play a significant role on the continent, said James Duddridge.

On issues of security, trade and development, the E.U. is a “wholly inappropriate way to define the U.K.-Africa relationship,” Duddridge said.

Duddridge forsees more focus on coordination with France and the U.S. because “that’s the where diplomatic clout lies in Africa, not with some distant European External Action Service,” he said.

A former banker for Barclays in Africa, Duddridge said recent E.U. decisions went against British government policy.

“In Somalia, against British wishes, the European Union reduced the amount of money available to Amisom, the peacekeeping force, by 20 percent,” he said. “That’s a very clear negative impact of the European Union on a U.K. priority area, and the U.K. stepped up and put more resources in there to make up for the inadequacies of the European Union,” he said, referring the recent deployment of British troops to Somalia.

On trade with Africa, Duddridge is critical of the European agricultural policy’s impact on Africa, claiming that “the Common Agricultural Policy (the E.U. subsidies system that critics say hurts farmers in developing countries) has distorted trade to the (detriment) of African countries over decades.”

On development aid, Duddridge says U.K. development aid channeled through the European Development Fund is allocated “a lot less efficiently” than British aid assigned directly to African countries via “very good organisations” like the Department for International Development, says Duddridge, who has worked in Botswana and Côte d’Ivoire.

He lists international organisations such as the U.N., World Bank and International Monetary Fund as possible alternatives to provide aid currently dispersed through the E.U.