Few things are as useful to countries as membership in a progressive organization with business links around the world.
For the 53 Commonwealth of Nations members meeting in London this week it’s a chance to discuss ideas, policies, united positions on global or regional affairs, to learn from the experiences of other member nations, and to pursue trade opportunities.
As Britain leaves the European Union by April 2019, Commonwealth of Nations members will discover evermore trade opportunities throughout the United Kingdom. And that trade must work both ways. Countries that allow the UK to export to their country should be encouraged to sell their goods and services to the United Kingdom; making Brexit a ‘Win-Win’ for all Commonwealth member nations.
After Brexit, two-way trade between the UK and EU is expected to drop by a few percentage points (this is normal and not to be feared) however, Commonwealth nations should expect to receive all of that two-way trade availability — and every expectation is that UK and Commonwealth leaders will surpass that low-ish standard.
Further, with restraints removed, the UK will be positioned to negotiate bilateral trade deals with every member of the bloc which should result in a surge of economic activity for every member nation.
Long before it was fashionable for world governments to support equality between people and groups in a society, Commonwealth leaders created the Commonwealth Charter with its sixteen shared principles which include democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, sustainable development, and racial and gender equality, together forming the foundation of the Commonwealth’s constitution.
Prior to 2012, the London Declaration guided the Commonwealth and proved that nations with different capacities and capabilities could work together for mutual benefit, simply by agreeing on shared goals and principles.
Going forward, member nations continue to improve standards and adherence to their principles thereby setting a unique example in national social dynamics to the world.
Like many developed nations, UK companies require plenty of low-cost labourers to harvest crops, to work on production lines, and as general labourers on construction projects.
After Brexit, the UK will be able to source a much larger percentage of labourers from Commonwealth nations as the customs agreement with the EU expires.
This could provide tens of thousands of opportunities annually for citizens of the Commonwealth who want to travel and work in the UK — even if it’s only during specific times of year that farmers require additional labourers — who would then return to their home country with their earnings at the end of the season.
During a period of massive construction projects, the same applies; Tens of thousands of workers could relocate to the UK to work in the construction industry and receive a temporary worker permit allowing them to stay in the country and pay taxes for as long as the contractor requires them. At project conclusion those workers could return to their country with thousands of pounds sterling in their pocket.
Such foreign workers should be required to provide a letter from their local police proving they aren’t wanted on criminal charges, a letter from their bank asserting they have sufficient funds to purchase a return airfare ticket (so they don’t get stranded in the UK when their employment ends) and they should be required to pay the Home Office £100 for every year or portion of a year they stay in the UK.
London is the financial capital of the world and is the ‘go-to’ stock exchange for IPO’s, for mature industries with financing needs, and is the most prestigious exchange on which to list Commonwealth companies.
Once Brexit occurs, billions more in FDI should be flowing from the UK to Commonwealth nations, which should always be the first choice for UK foreign investment.
Special arrangements should be made for individuals and businesses in Commonwealth nations to access UK banks within their home country prior to travelling to Britain.
I will use ‘Barclays’ to make an easy example:
- Barclays (a global bank headquartered in London) should be required to maintain at least one branch in every major city throughout the Commonwealth, in exchange for a reasonable tax advantage.
- For workers wanting to work in the UK who must first apply for a worker’s visa, who must first pay the £100 annual fee to reside in the UK, who must first obtain a letter of credit from the bank proving they have sufficient funds for return airfare, and who must first attach a criminal records check letter to their application to the Home Office — such workers should be able to do it all at the Barclays branch and have all the information electronically transmitted to the appropriate Home Office desk and receive confirmation from the Home Office in the time it takes to sip a coffee.
- For companies that want to import from or export to the UK; the commercial side of the Barclays branch should be set up to enthusiastically assist business owners with every aspect of importing or exporting anywhere within the Commonwealth. Such business owners need only visit a Barclays branch with the idea in hand, and should expect to leave the branch an hour later with every single step completed and be fully informed on every relevant regulation and practice so they can begin importing or exporting the very next day.
- Companies that need financing within their own Commonwealth country — regardless of whether they intend to import from or export to the UK at that exact point in time — should feel that Barclays is always their first choice for financing, for assistance to list on the LSE, or to go public with an IPO offering. Every related thing must be easily done at Barclays in the absolute minimum timeframe — before that business walks out the door, possibly to a non-UK bank, and possibly for good.
- If non-Commonwealth banks offer better personal or business financing, better import and export assistance, better stock exchange listing expertise, better IPO experience and support, then the UK economy and banking sector will suffer by not being in the right place at the right time with the right tools to capture that business. And that would be deeply embarrassing for the United Kingdom — a developed nation with deep and historical roots across the Commonwealth of Nations.
The UK has much to offer the rest of the Commonwealth especially when it comes to mutual aid; whether military aid during internal or external conflict, or civilian aid during natural disasters, and by working together, individual member nations can be more successful than trying to accomplish such operations alone.
Royal Navy ships for example, could automatically become available for sale to Commonwealth nations at any time past the 6-year mark — at a significant savings when compared to purchasing new ships of equal size and capability.
During national emergencies in member nations, the UK should deploy significant resources to aid those nations. India too, has a sizeable military that could work joint operations with the Royal Navy to assist Commonwealth nations in peril.
Working together on military missions and aid projects, member countries will be able to prove with clearly defined examples of mutual aid, how synergy is the most valuable aspect of membership.
The Commonwealth in the post-Brexit timeframe should become 100-times more dynamic than it has been.
For as long as the UK has been shackled to EU regulations it’s been a tough go for the bloc, but much has been accomplished. Yet, there is so much potential!
With 2.5 billion citizens living in Commonwealth nations, most of whom are young and will need to purchase many goods and services throughout their lifetimes, it’s an exciting time for the UK to be re-engaging wholeheartedly with the rest of the membership.
“Sixty percent of the Commonwealth is under the age of 30.” — HRH Prince Harry’s address to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 16, 2018.
The reinvigorated Commonwealth is going to out-succeed every country and bloc (and not only in combined GDP growth) but in Trade, Social Issues, Immigration, Investment, and importantly, in Mutual Aid — serving to showcase the kind of synergy that’s possible between nations for the balance of the 21st-century.
Written by John Brian Shannon