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Britain Hopes to Build Post-Brexit ‘Empire 2.0’



Britain wants to improve trade relations with African nations after it leaves the European Union.

Some people have called the planned project ‘Empire 2.0’ because many African countries are former British colonies.

However, some experts believe Britain’s attempt to build on past links with those African nations could meet resistance. They say exporters face years of uncertainty over future trading relations with Britain.

British officials say leaving the EU will permit Britain to "go global" and freely trade with the rest of the world. Britain claims the EU has prevented many of its trading goals.

Kwasi Kwarteng is a British lawmaker whose family is from a country that once was a British colony. He says that many people in former colonies have both good and bad memories of British rule.

"My own family is from West Africa, Ghana, which is a Commonwealth country and was a former colony. And people have very mixed memories of the Empire. So to try and relive that past, I think, is a completely ridiculous and forlorn exercise."

Britain’s history on the African continent includes many conflicts. One example was the Mau Mau uprising, a rebellion that took place in Kenya in the 1950s. But Kwarteng believes the old links established during British rule will aid new trade deals.

"There's a vast world out there, nearly 80 percent of global GDP, which is outside the EU. And a lot of GDP is taken up by Commonwealth countries."

Critics, however, note that almost half of British exports go to the European Union. Less than 10 percent of British exports go to Africa.

To increase trade, Britain wants quick trade deals with developing countries. But Matt Grady with the fair trade organization Traidcraft says African nations should negotiate carefully with Britain, or the UK (United Kingdom).

He says that "African countries have indicated that their priorities are regional integration and cooperation. So now is not really the time for the UK to be trying to negotiate deals with African countries that will undermine those priorities.”

Grady adds that “decisions are being made now for two years down the line on uncertain conditions."

This week, the head of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States called for a delay in talks. Patrick Gomes said that a free trade deal with Britain should be delayed until at least six years after Britain's exit from the EU.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in this Story

forlorn – adj. not having much chance of success : nearly hopeless

vast – adj. very great in size, amount, or extent

indicated – v. to show or suggest that (something) is needed

priorities – n. the things that someone cares about and thinks are important

integration – n. to make a person or group part of a larger group or organization

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