How will Brexit impact European-African relations?

Brexit will bring a lot of change to the relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). The impact of this change will also be felt by many African countries, especially former British colonies.

Currently, Britain is committed to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid. The Prime Minister said in April of 2017 that the Government would

Currently, the UK contributes to the EU foreign aid budget. So, when the UK finally leaves the EU, depending on the deal, it is likely that the EU will lose a large chunk of its foreign aid budget. The European Parliament produced a study on the possible impact of Brexit on EU development policies and estimated that the EU could lose between 10-13% of its world aid share after Brexit. Of course, the EU could overcome this shortfall and find the money elsewhere.

It appears unlikely that the EU will be able to make up this shortfall without addressing some internal issues. It has already planned to shift around €30 billion from eastern and central Europe to southern and western European states such as Greece and Spain. This led to antagonism amongst those losing EU funds, who may then be unlikely to agree to shift additional funds into non-EU development aid.

So what does this mean for Africa? Within former colonial powers there is a common trend of providing aid to their ex-colonies. This means that Brexit could lead to former British colonies facing a large reduction in EU aid. Africa would still benefit from generous Scandinavian aid, but without the UK holding any key decision-making positions in the allocation of EU aid, former British colonies could be marginalised. France may see this as an opportunity to exert its influence and push for more money going to its former colonies.

Following Brexit, Britain will be free to negotiate trade deals with its former colonies. Currently, Britain trades with Africa through trade arrangements negotiated by the EU. These would need to be re-negotiated once Brexit has taken place. A few months ago UK Prime Minister May visited South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, where her distinct lack of musical rhythm went viral. The aim of the trip was to begin talking trade for post-Brexit deals. Choosing to visit South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria demonstrates how important former colonial status will be for Britain’s future trade deals.

Trade deals are not things that can be hashed out in a matter of hours, despite what some leading British politicians seem to believe. With an ideal time of 2 years, the intervening period will be characterised by uncertainty, which could harm those African industries which benefit from trade with the UK. These industries may decide to look elsewhere and forge new relationships with other EU members if the trade deals take too long to finalise.

A change in leadership is not unlikely. There are many potential leaders in the Conservative party who believe that foreign aid assistance should be scrapped.

If foreign aid assistance was to be scrapped, this could cause major problems for former British colonies. Losing out on aid that is beneficial to the economy could force them to look elsewhere for assistance. What we could witness is an even greater role for China in the former British colonies, as they could step in to provide the assistance lost by Brexit. Britain may well end up losing its influence over many of its former colonies if China fills the void.

Of course, this is all hypothetical. No one really knows what the impact of Brexit will be. However, it is clear that it will have an impact on EU-Africa relations and UK-Africa relations.

Featured image | Brexit sailing apart – bon voyage | muffinn | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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