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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Build on our existing economic relationships to further our common trading interests

Last updated: 02:50pm 8 December 2019

We will strengthen our close links with our Commonwealth allies, continuing our mission together to promote democratic values around the world and build on our existing economic relationships to further our common trading interests.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.38

Our verdict

The Commonwealth is a group of 53 nations almost all of which were formerly territories in the British Empire. It makes up roughly a third of the world’s population, making trade relationships essential to the future of the UK economy, particularly in the context of Brexit. This policy is a promise to build on economic ties with Commonwealth allies to further common trading interests.

Since 2017, the government has signed new trade deals with 18 countries in case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, involving non-EU actors and powers such Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. In addition, the UK is in mutual recognition trade agreements with Australia, the USA and Japan. However, until a Brexit deal has been agreed by the government and Parliament, the trade deals mentioned above cannot be finalised.

In October 2019, the government held a meeting with Commonwealth allies, chairing a discussion on strengthening multilateral trade and fighting protectionism. Moreover, it announced £2.5 million of funding for the Commonwealth Standards Network, which works to promote intra-Commonwealth trade by supporting exporters and institutions.

The government focused mainly on replicating previous trade agreements currently covered by EU rules, and focused on existing economic relationships with Commonwealth allies only towards the end of its time in office. Without enough time having been dedicated to building on those existing economic relationships, this policy will remain ‘in progress’.

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