Liberal Democrats

Kay Barnard

Working For You

Like many forward thinkers, I consider our membership of both the Commonwealth and the EU as a huge advantage to Britain.

The Commonwealth is a group of 53 countries. It is home to 2.2 billion citizens, over 60% of whom are under the age of 30. You can find out more at: http://thecommonwealth.org

It is wrong to say that membership of the EU inhibits Britain’s relationship and trade with its Commonwealth partners.  In fact the high standard of EU products is widely recognised as a badge of quality in the rest of the world.  The UK is uniquely placed to improve trade in both directions, from Britain and Europe to Commonwealth countries and from those countries to the EU.

As an example, exporters from the Commonwealth have to meet EU standards for quality such as food hygiene.  Many fail at the moment but many are also developing their own products very fast.  That benefits their own citizens and European customers too.

Given the strength of British historical ties with much of the developing world, our level of exports to Commonwealth countries is shockingly low. One estimate is that only 8% of our total exports go to Commonwealth countries, of which the largest markets are Canada and Australia. 

Our complacency towards our Commonwealth partners has provided a huge opportunity to China, which now gives large amounts of "aid" to build infrastructure projects in developing nations such as roads.  This is reported as "not having strings attached" but it certainly builds China's influence and prestige.  We in the UK need to widen our outlook and seek to build strong ties with our Commonwealth friends.  Our shared heritage of a common language and legal system should not be undervalued.

As a member of the Bristol Commonwealth Society, here’s to a strong and continuing partnership!

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