What were South Africa’s leaders really thinking as Theresa May shuffled around in her leopard print shoes trying to look pensive as she looked out through the bars of Nelson Mandela’s prison of 27 years?
Probably not “isn’t it great to have one of the world’s leaders visit us to see if we can do a trade deal, when we already have a tariff-free agreement with the European Union”.
The same response presumably echoed round all the other countries where Mrs May deigned to give a few hours of her time. After all, 33 African countries do six times more business with the EU than the USA.
Surprisingly, Europe does much more with Africa than China, whose soft power engagement with Africa has been a model in how to gain great influence without frightening the horses.
What about Britain’s influence on EU trade? It counts for not much more than 12% of it.
More’s the pity then that the Remain argument hasn’t been made either clear enough or big enough. Despite this being the biggest economic issue ever to face the country, Remainers have learned nothing from the advertising industry about what sort of budget it takes and what sort of simple messages are vital to influence the minds of millions of voters.
Talk of “Global Britain” is a complete chimera. Japan has just signed a mega deal with Europe. Just imagine their reaction when Mrs May boogies up in her kimono and starts talking about a trade deal to match anything the EU can do?
So far, we have heard nothing of trade deals in South America, so presumably there are no rich pickings there for Britain. So, on to Australia. The problem there is that you might get a Prime Minister to enthuse over a trade agreement with Britain, but then another will come along and change it before any ink is laid on paper.
So that leaves New Zealand, which is very good at trade deals, having been first in the world to get one with China. When Michael Gove’s empty promise to keep up the level of EU subsidies for a couple of years after Brexit finally does for Britain’s dairy industry, no doubt the Kiwis will be sharp enough to up their considerable agricultural game to, er milk the Brits.