Brexit was an opportunity for the UK not to spend more money on European countries with many financial problems, including Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain. It must now define its own independent economic and political policies, sectors which were previously shared with the European Union. Now that it has seceded from Europe and changed course, it must look for new allies.
The British Economy Following Secession from the European Union
On a positive note, Brexit could allow for less EU-induced regulatory burdens, and also for lower welfare losses due to EU protectionism. However, these appear relatively moderate and, in most reliable studies, outweighed by the disadvantages of lower economic integration with the EU.
The EU is the main trading partner for the British economy – it is the destination of around 45% of all British goods and around 38% of total UK services which are exported. Depending on the arrangement between the UK and the EU, Brexit would imply higher trade barriers imposed by the EU.
This means higher trade transaction costs and customs clearance requirements leading to delays for British firms exporting to the EU. Moreover, the UK will partially lose access to the EU internal market, which particularly affects the freedom to provide services and the right of establishment in the EU. Higher EU trade barriers could also induce British and foreign companies to shift jobs from the UK to the continent. The UK (and in particular the City of London) could suffer from relocations, especially as US companies use the UK as a bridgehead for the EU; this would be significantly complicated after Brexit. Moreover, EU companies could cut UK firms out of their (just-in-time) cross border value chains due to higher trade costs and time delays. If Brexit goes ahead, the UK would no longer be able to benefit from future EU trade agreements and further progress within the single market.
But, Britain seems to have considered all these aspects prior leaving the EU, plus other ways to make up for its economic prosperity, including new allies on its political and economic agenda.
The United Kingdom and ASEAN
The United Kingdom is one of seven countries considering to join ASEAN, and the second non-Asian country to deliberate its capabilities. It has written articles about it since 1979, but the number of articles has increased significantly since 2012. Most topics are on the economy and social sciences.
While Europe and the US face relative stagnation, ASEAN is powering ahead. Disparate and diverse, yet integrating rapidly, ASEAN’s total GDP is now almost four-and-a-half times larger than it was in 2000. Taken as a whole, ASEAN is forecast to become the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050. This is a huge untold growth story. The future does not belong to those who wait and see, but to those who grasp opportunities and look beyond their own shores and horizons. Put simply, not trading and doing business with ASEAN would be to miss out on a golden opportunity.
ASEAN’s economic emergence is a reminder that there is more to Asia’s story than the rise of China and India. The story of modern-day Southeast Asia is much less well understood by businesses, investors, and the public at large in the UK. The Chinese growth story is slowing as the country matures, and Northeast Asian societies are aging. India and South Asia have their own development challenges. Southeast Asia is less discussed, yet is a hugely dynamic region.
Today, if we look at the ten countries in ASEAN in order of economic size – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei – they form a diverse family of countries who are integrating rapidly. They do more trade put together between them today than the rest of the world does with the whole of ASEAN.
Despite economic disparities and different cultures, languages, and ethnicities, this family of nations shares many similar threads of history and current evolving economic trends. They vary greatly in economic development and economic opportunity, but are growing rapidly with a shared story of economic emergence. They, therefore, present a golden opportunity for British businesses and investors wanting to do business in one of the fastest-growing regions of the world.
Becoming a dialogue partner gives Britain high-level access to ASEAN summits. The British government hopes it will also spur deeper practical cooperation on issues like climate change and regional stability.
Britain has also applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement it hopes will open up new markets for goods and services and strengthen existing commercial links.
United Kingdom and Africa
The United Kingdom is one of only four countries in the world to conduct academic studies on Africa. Their studies on Africa have been ongoing, but they have compiled more than 250 articles, books and conferences a year on Africa’s economic potential and social issues since 2010, indexed in Scopus.
The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union presents an opportunity for the UK and Africa to negotiate more favourable trading terms for their economies at home.
The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, has abandoned the ‘Global Britain’ rhetoric of his predecessor, leading Emily Yeates to examine the potentials and pitfalls of a redefined UK-Africa relationship.
During Theresa May’s time as the UK Prime Minister, she coined and frequently deployed the term ‘Global Britain’ to signal a move towards free trade agreements and broader engagement beyond Europe. On her trip to the African continent in August 2018, May went on the charm offensive, promising to overtake the US as the biggest G7 investor in Africa by 2022. The focus of the trip was on key African Commonwealth partners – South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.
While public attention at home fixated on the prime minister’s awkward dancing, the trip signalled a change in strategic direction for UK foreign policy. With Brexit as the catalyst, the UK government was attempting to renew historical ties with key African states to support trade deals after leaving the European Union.
The UK seems to have explored many of the world’s economic potentials, including ASEAN in Southeast Asia. It will continue to have an influence in Asia for a stronger economy. Africa is also one of Britain’s targets, and it has even conducted comprehensive research on Latin America. The UK is looking for new partners in its economy and politics without Europe, but inevitably needs Europe due to its geographical positioning.
To protect British interests in its new ventures, British troops will definitely be sent to these new areas, including African and Asian countries and oceans, especially Southeast Asia and Latin America. To achieve this, the withdrawal of British, and other foreign troops, from Afghanistan has been long in the making by the authorities.