Brexit: First post-referendum thoughts

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      In what has been regarded as one of the most significant events in European history in the last 40 years, the UK has voted in referendum to leave the EU. This result is going to have a considerable impact on Europe and Africa, including the various specific areas in which ECDPM is working. Since there is a large number of variables and the political process is still ‘in play’, it would be premature to draw firm conclusions and predictions at this stage. In this article, ECDPM presents a number of initial views of its experts in key policy domains.

      Some facts and figures

      • The UK accounts for 12.9% of the EU-28’s exports and 15.2% of the bloc’s imports to/from non-member countries - which positions the UK as the second biggest EU trade partner after Germany.
      • The UK is one of the main contributors to the EU development aid budget, representing 14.8% of the overall commitments to the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), by far the largest development aid instrument of the EU.
      • The EU has 139 Delegations around the world often in places without UK Embassies or DFID offices with the UK with member-states and other member-state participating in EU ‘Heads of Mission’ (HoMs) meetings.
      • The EU has 17 ongoing Common Security and Development Policy civilian and military missions including 10 in Africa.

      ACP-EU and future of Cotonou post-2020

      “Brexit could have a major impact on the future of ACP-EU relations post-2020. 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% of the total EDF (approx. 500 million Euro/year). Probably 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 English-speaking Caribbean to find new allies in Europe that will defend their case in Brussels.” Geert Laporte, Deputy Director

      EU development policy

      “EU development policy was in a state of evolution even before Brexit, moving to be aligned more with EU self-interest and the SDGs. The UK has had an influence on the EU’s focus and expertise on the 0.7% target for aid, the SDGs, the value for money and results agenda, differentiation in EU aid to focus more on least development countries and fragile states. These issues won’t go away, but without UK influence and engagement it will certainly be different. Key moments to look out for are the review of the European Consensus on Development - the overarching EU development policy which is due for a ten year revision in 2016 - and the dynamics around the EU-Africa Summit in 2017. Negotiating positions on whether the UK will be paying into its current EU budget due right up until the end of 2019 and the UK’s absence for negotiations on the next EU budget and its priorities post-2020 will have direct and long-term implications on the impact of EU development policies.” Andrew Sherriff, Head of European External Action programme

      EU peace, security and peacebuilding

      “The UK has for a long time supported the African Union led Peace Support Operation in Somalia (AMISOM) through the EU's "African Peace Facility" (APF). The APF is funded through the European Development Fund (EDF) to which the UK is the third highest contributor after France and Germany. EDF commitments, which need to be fulfilled, run until 2020. Assuming the likely scenario that AMISOM, or a similar support operation, will be needed beyond 2020, and that the UK would like to support this operation in partnership with other European countries, the African Union will have to negotiate with an additional international partner in securing funds for the mission in Somalia. Moreover, the UK has been a strong advocate for peacebuilding and conflict prevention within the EU's approach on peace, security and development. This contrasts with France, which has traditionally put more emphasis on the military/ defence side of peace and security and focused more on military cooperation with countries in Africa. What we will likely see as a rather immediate effect of the UK’s departure from the EU family, is that the EU's approach to peacebuilding and conflict prevention will be less advocated for within the EU institutions and among EU member states.” Volker Hauck, Head of Conflict, Security and Resilience programme

      Trade and development

      “When the UK leaves the EU, it will have direct consequences on all EU trade agreements. For developing countries, including the ACP, this means that they will not 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. For countries like South Africa, Kenya and Mauritius, the UK accounts for about 25%-30% of their exports to the EU, and up to 75% 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.” San Bilal, Head of Economic Transformation and Trade programme

      What are your key questions about Brexit?

      ECDPM would like to consult with our partners and readers in Europe, Africa and across the world, on what key questions they have in terms of the implications of Brexit. We will use this input as we define our work on this topic, in the domains of European external action (including foreign, development policy, migration and EU aid), conflict, security and resilience (including conflict prevention and peacebuilding), change dynamics in Africa (governance issues, African Union, African Governance Architecture), economic transformation and trade (regional integration, economic governance, EPAs), and food security (including agriculture and nutrition). At ECDPM, we are designing a specialised analytical framework to understand Brexit, yet will not limit ourselves to sharing our analytical work, as we will also adopt our usual position as non-partisan broker of dialogue amongst stakeholders. Please use the comments function below or write directly to Weekly Compass Editor and Head of Communications Melissa Julian at The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ECDPM.
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