Repositioning the UK and Commonwealth Post-Brexit

David Howell (Lord Howell of Guildford)
David Howell (Lord Howell of Guildford)
President of The Royal Commonwealth Society

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled for London in May 2018, is the occasion for the Commonwealth to control its affairs and promote its causes. However, if skilfully planned, approached and managed during the course of 2017, it could also be a pivotal occasion for the interests of the entire Commonwealth network, as well as a milestone in the repositioning of the UK in the post-Brexit era.

During the stormy debates during 2016 in the UK about Brexit (the ‘British exit’ – the vote for the UK to leave the European Union) it came as a surprise to some that the contribution of the services sector of the UK economy had grown to no less than 78 per cent of total GDP. Yet this growth pattern of services domination is of course the chief feature of most advanced economies in the digital age, and behind it lies a highly significant development. We are in the middle of an all-embracing technology-driven revolution that is transforming business activity and with it world trade – in the developed and the developing world alike. Analytics, automation, the ‘internet of things’, use of amazing new lightweight materials – all these developments are rippling through economic life. 

A new trajectory of trends 

Against this shifting background the current ‘snapshot’ of intra-Commonwealth trade and business activity, and of UK trade links with the rest of the Commonwealth, is both blurred and misleading. It illuminates yesterday’s patterns rather than the trajectory of current trends, which is where trans-Commonwealth cooperation should be focusing...

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