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Trade Minister: Brexit will have zero affect on SA-UK ties

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South Africa’s trade relationship with the United Kingdom will remain unchanged following London’s leaving the European Union (EU) after 47 years in the continental body, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said on Monday, 3 February 2020.

“South Africa has been notified by the EU that in terms of the withdrawal agreement concluded and ratified between the EU and the UK, during the transitional period, the UK will be treated as a Member State of the Union for the purposes of international agreements concluded by the Union, or by Member States acting on behalf of the Union, or by the Union and its Member States jointly,” the Minister said.

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 in what is widely known as Brexit (British exit from the EU) under the guidance of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The transitional period was set to end on 31 December 2020 but could be extended on an agreement between the EU and the UK.

South Africa’s trade with Britain currently takes place under the terms of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which became effective on 10 October 2016.

Patel said during the transitional period provided for in the UK Withdrawal Agreement, the trade between South Africa and the UK would continue unchanged under the SADC-EU EPA.

“South African exporters can plan ahead with confidence in the period ahead. Their legal and regulatory arrangements remain stable and in place, as it was during the period that the UK was part of the European Union.

“The UK remains one of South Africa’s key trading partners. In 2018, the UK was the fourth largest destination for South African exports, with bilateral trade between the two countries amounting to more than US$9.3 billion,” Patel said.

To avoid the disruption to South Africa’s exports, once the UK exits the EU and the SADC-EU EPA does not apply to the UK any longer, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique have engaged with the UK over a two-year period following the announcement of the UK’s intention to leave the EU.

A new agreement, which is known as the SACUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement, was agreed upon between the parties in September 2019.

The SACUM-UK EPA effectively retained the terms of trade present in the existing SADC-EU EPA, and will govern the bilateral trading relationship between each of the SACUM countries and the UK in the event that the SADC-EU EPA no longer applies to the UK after December 2020, Patel concluded.

– APA

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