Britain voted to exit the European Union in 2017, a decision that has now famously been termed “Brexit.” In recent times, a lot of questions have been raised regarding Britain’s new trade partners after its exit from the single market the European Union offers. There have even been whispers of “Empire 2.0,” with many reports saying Britain is once again looking to leverage on its imperial history and fall back on the Commonwealth nation bloc which it heads. However, Britain thinks Nigeria would be a key trade partner post-Brexit negotiations.
In an interview with the UK Telegraph, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), Lord Marland of Odstock said many Commonwealth countries offer new opportunities for Britain. “There are one or two really encouraging, optimistic places on the horizon. You’ve got the big populations such as Nigeria, which is going to be 320m people – bigger than the United States – in under 10 years. They love British products…it’s a huge consumer market. Fundamentally there is a lot of disposable wealth,” he said.
The Commonwealth is a nation bloc of former British colonies. It has a population of about 2.4 billion people and includes countries like Australia, Canada, and Nigeria. Post-Brexit, the UK is looking to establish a trading zone with many of its former colonies. Trade between Commonwealth nations was worth $525 billion in 2015 and is projected to be worth more than twice that by 2020. Cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all these nations will also be worth $14 trillion by 2020.
The Commonwealth’s influence has been especially felt in Africa, and in Nigeria. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, and 30 percent of its exports go into bloc’s market. India alone, also a Commonwealth member, accounts for 15 percent of Nigeria’s exports. Nigeria is also the fifth largest economy in the Commonwealth, and with South Africa, represent about 70 percent of Commonwealth African trade.
The CWEIC “is responsible for organizing the Commonwealth Business Forum alongside the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting on alternate years,” according to a statement on its website.
The 2018 Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) will be held in London this April, for the first time in over two decades. It seems to emphasize how important the Commonwealth presently is to Britain. The key agendas for the meeting include harnessing Commonwealth innovation and technology, easing the pathway for more business and growth e.t.c. The CBF is an invitation-only event and will convene 800 senior business leaders with approximately 30 Heads of Government at three iconic Central London venues.
Marland also added that removing barriers to trade between many Commonwealth countries and the UK is one of the agendas at the CBF. These barriers, including lowering tariffs, will ensure equity and freedom for all parties involved.
After South-Africa, Britain is Nigeria’s second-largest trading partner, with the relationship worth an average of around £3.8 billion annually. This relationship could get better in the long term, according to Marland. Nigeria’s population is especially a big attraction for the UK. “You’ve got the big populations such as Nigeria, which is going to be 320m people – bigger than the United States – in under 10 years. They love British products…it’s a huge consumer market. Fundamentally there is a lot of disposable wealth,” he said.
For Nigeria, being an active member of new trade deals between with Britain is more important. Being a consumer market for British goods isn’t an ideal situation because it would still mean more of the same trade imbalance in favor of Britain. However, this represents a unique opportunity for Nigeria. As a separate entity from the European Union, trading with Britain reduces the complexity of trading with the bigger nation bloc in the EU. This deal also gives Nigeria a good opportunity for diversification; the population of Nigerians in the UK is around 2 million, representing a huge market for Nigerian exports.