Adam Afriyie
MP for Windsor
This Commonwealth Day we should reflect on Britain’s place in the world

Today people from every continent will celebrate Commonwealth Day.

Fortuitously, Commonwealth Day this year falls on the same day that we in the House of Commons are voting on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill for, hopefully, the last time.

My position on the EU is well-known and consistent: Our future lies in forging new trading relations with the EU members and re-joining with the world as we leave the European Project.

An important part of making a success of Brexit is rebuilding our atrophied links with fellow Commonwealth countries.

The Commonwealth is an important international union. A global family of over 2.4bn people across more than 50 countries. This relationship of nations has led to a wonderfully interconnected diaspora across every continent with shared values, shared history and a shared future.

There is even a ‘Commonwealth advantage’ effect in trade and commerce: the inter-operability of our law systems means that, ceteris paribus, trade is 19% cheaper between Commonwealth countries.

Peaceful and stable countries make for more robust and resilient trade partners, so the theme this year’s Commonwealth Day has wisely been chosen as peace-building.

An intrinsic component of a peaceful society is a commitment to democratic governance and the rule of law: one of the many shared values of the Commonwealth of Nations. As the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana I witnessed Ghana’s most recent contribution to this tradition of democracy and rule of law this January at the inauguration of President Nana Akufo Addo. Like every other transition of power in the fourth Republic of Ghana this was peaceful and respected by all sides, including the outgoing President John Mahama.

Like many other countries the businesses I have spoken to in Ghana are looking forward to the strong and comprehensive trade partnership that we can build together once Britain has regained control of its trade policy.

But trade is not just about counting Pounds and pence in exports. Globalisation and the soft power of free trade also leads to complex social relationships and diaspora left in its wake. Regaining control of our trade policy is therefore also about Britain finding its place in the world.

I hope that by this time next year, when it will be Britain’s turn to host the rotating Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that we will have an even clearer view of Britain’s new place in the world as we leave the EU: a dynamic and open country closely linked to Europe but not anchored to it.

The horizon is broader than Europe, and Britain was made for open seas.

 

ENDS

  1. Adam Afriyie is the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana.
  2. He has a strong background in science, technology and innovation.
  3. He is currently Chairman of the Fintech APPG, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and President of the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF).
  4. He was Shadow Minister for Science from 2007-2010 and has a background in the information services and technology sector.
  5. He is Patron of the Parliamentary Space Committee (PSC) and was Chair of the PSC between 2010 and 2015.
Update: Windsor MP asks Government question on investment

On Tuesday 28th February Adam asked Chancellor of the Exchequer for an update on the work that they are doing to make Britain a better place for private sector firms to invest.

Treasury Questions – Tuesday 28th February

Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): I very much welcome this Government’s healthy commitment to scientific spending over several years, but it seems that our business investment in research is below the OECD average. May I urge the Chancellor to examine measures that will increase private company business expenditure on research?

David Gauke (Chief Secretary to the Treasury): As the Chancellor announced at the autumn statement, the Government are significantly increasing investment in research and development, rising to an extra £2 billion a year by 2020-21. We have also made the R&D tax credit regime much more generous. We want to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for business to invest in innovative research.

Windsor MP asks Government question on investment

On Tuesday 28th February Adam asked Chancellor of the Exchequer for an update on the work that they are doing to make Britain a better place for private sector firms to invest:

Treasury Questions – Tuesday 28th February

Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): I very much welcome this Government’s healthy commitment to scientific spending over several years, but it seems that our business investment in research is below the OECD average. May I urge the Chancellor to examine measures that will increase private company business expenditure on research?

David Gauke (Chief Secretary to the Treasury): As the Chancellor announced at the autumn statement, the Government are significantly increasing investment in research and development, rising to an extra £2 billion a year by 2020-21. We have also made the R&D tax credit regime much more generous. We want to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for business to invest in innovative research.

Windsor MP questions the government on trade

On Tuesday 21st February Adam asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for an update on the work that they are doing to ensure Brexit leads to better diplomatic relations (52:46 to 53:48):

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions – Tuesday 21st February

Adam Afriyie (Windsor, Conservative): There were also crowds of people to welcome us when we arrived in Ghana a week or two ago. Although we could not quite work out whether the welcome was for us or for the Minister for Trade and Investment, it was thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.

It seems to me that the greater the number of trading connections that we forge, particularly in west Africa, the stronger the foundation on which to build good international relations will be. Does my right hon. Friend agree that withdrawal from the European customs union will give us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost our diplomatic relations worldwide?

Boris Johnson (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs): I thank my hon. Friend for his work as trade envoy to Ghana. Indeed, I thank all our trade envoys, who do a fantastic job around the world. It is thanks to the efforts of my colleague the Minister for Trade and Investment and others that we are seeing increased trade with countries such as Ghana, and I was very proud to see British firms operating there. I believe that the largest single private sector employer in Ghana is a firm run by a Brit. We should all be proud of the contribution that those firms are making.

Ghana’s warm reception shows the opportunities for post-Brexit Britain

Having just returned from a flying visit to Ghana with the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, I thought I’d make some encouraging observations about UK-Ghana relations.

My role, as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Ghana, it to boost our trading relationship with Ghana. It is notable that our Foreign Secretary chose Ghana as one of his destinations on his first visit to the region.

I am pleased to report that the meetings we held with President Nana Akufo-Addo and his Ministers were as warm and cordial as they were productive and workmanlike.

This was my second trip to Ghana in as many months, the first being in January as a representative of Her Majesty’s Government at President Akufo-Addo’s Inauguration.

Like every other Ghanaian election in recent memory, the 2016 Presidential and General Elections were universally recognised as being free and fair, and the transfer of power, despite a close result, was peaceful and successful.

Good democracies make for good trading partners and Britain’s trade with Ghana is booming. Bilateral trade re-crossed the £1bn threshold in 2015 and there is every reason to expect that figure to climb especially with the level of engagement at the highest levels of Government.

There are great opportunities for British investors in Ghana and a huge range of businesses where investors can find a home. We are world leaders across many of the sectors that Ghana seeks market expertise in; from financial, professional and technology services to the creative industries, aerospace, construction and even bridge building. There is huge potential to enhance our trading partnership over the coming years.

The new Ghanaian administration are quite clear: they want to see the private sector create the jobs and prosperity needed to boost the Ghanaian economy. This desire has be encapsulated into a manifesto commitment to see a factory in every district and the UK is well positioned to assist with both investment and expertise.

Post-Brexit Britain is very much open for business and we stand to benefit as much as the Ghanaian people.

To find out more about opportunities for UK businesses overseas visit the Exporting is Great website.