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A European think tank group in Brussels believes the departure of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) will have direct consequences on all EU trade agreements.
The head of Economic Transformation and Trade Programme at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), San Bilal says developing countries including the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states ‘will no longer have preferential access to the UK.’
“Neither under an EU free trade agreement (FTA), nor under economic partnership agreements (EPAs) or the EU general system of preferences (GSP), including the duty-free quota-free market access under the Everything-But-Arms (EBA) initiative. This might be a small loss for some, but will have major consequences for others, said Bilal.
For countries like South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius, the UK accounts for about 25-30 percent of their exports to the EU, and up to 75 percent for a small island like Fiji.
The Caribbean relations with Europe are also largely dominated by the UK. Yet, the EPAs are unlikely to be re-negotiated.
“The UK might wish to sign bilateral deals with some ACP countries, but could be more selective than the EU was, also to avoid another round of contentious negotiations.”
Trade-related support for these agreements, in the forms of aid for trade, is also likely to fall, as the UK will no longer contribute to EU endeavours.
“However, it is doubtful that Brexit will affect the overall dynamics around EPAs and their implementation. Still, it will require more attention from developing countries, and the ACP in particular, to assess the consequences and steps forwards, including in terms of possible new bilateral negotiations with the UK, said Bilal.
Bilal’s views provides some initial thinking by the European Think Tank group to analyse the ramifications of the withdrawal of the UK from EU.
Another ECDPM analyst, Geert Laporte thinks, “Brexit could have a major impact on the future of ACP-EU relations post-2020.”
He said the UK would no longer engage in the discussions and negotiations on a Post-Cotonou successor agreement. Moreover, a future European Development Fund (EDF) would lose the UK contribution, which currently stands for almost 15 percent of the total EDF, which is approximately 500 million Euro/year.
Laporte said even more important than the declining aid levels would be the further loss of influence of the ACP in the European Union.
“If the UK, being a former colonial power, withdraws from the EU, it might be particularly difficult for the ACP countries to find new allies in Europe that will defend their case in Brussels, said Laporte.
The United Kingdom is one of the main contributors to the EU development aid budget, representing 14.8 percent of the overall commitments to the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), by far the largest development aid instrument of the EU.
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