|Journal publication date||13 Oct 2016|
This article critically interrogates claims that a British exit from the European Union (Brexit) will create opportunities for the UK to escape the EU’s apparent protectionism and cumbersome internal politics in order to pursue a more liberal and globalist trade agenda based on the Commonwealth. Taking a historical view of UK and EU trade relations with the Commonwealth in Africa, I highlight the way in which the incorporation of the majority of Commonwealth states into the EU's preferential trading relationships has reconfigured ties between the UK and its former colonies over time. Further, I suggest that the EU’s recent attempts to realise a vision for an ambitious set of free trade agreements in Africa – the Economic Partnership Agreements – was disrupted not by EU protectionism or internal politics but rather by African resistance to the EU’s liberal agenda for reciprocal tariff liberalisation and regulatory harmonisation. The UK therefore faces a complex challenge if it is to disentangle its trade relations with Africa from those of the EU and to forge its own set of ambitious free trade agreements with African partners.
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