January is traditionally a time for looking ahead and setting out a vision for the year. For some of us, our goals may be simple – more time with family, lose weight, travel or study. For politicians however, sometimes the vision encompasses a major or historic change in international relations.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May gave a much anticipated speech on 17 January in London in which she set out 12 objectives for negotiating “Brexit”, the UK’s exit from the EU, as well as the new, positive and constructive partnership she is seeking between the UK and the European Union. These objectives were: certainty, control of our own laws, strengthening the Union, managing the Common Travel Area with Ireland, control of immigration, rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU, protection of workers’ rights, free trade with European markets, new trade agreements with other countries, the best place for science and innovation, cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism and a smooth, orderly Brexit.
But the speech was not just about the UK and the European Union. The Prime Minister also set out her vision for our relationship with the rest of the world. Her message was clear: the vote to leave the EU was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world; it was the moment we chose to build a truly Global Britain. The Prime Minister wants the United Kingdom to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. The UK will be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country - a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. The UK will be a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that gets out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.
The UK is a European country – and proud of our European heritage – but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe to the wider world. That is why we are one of the most racially diverse countries in Europe, one of the most multicultural members of the European Union, and why – whether we are talking about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, countries in Africa or those that are closer to home in Europe – so many of us have close friends and relatives from across the world. We will continue to attract the brightest and best to work or study in Britain – we are at this moment short listing candidates from Botswana for our prestigious Chevening scholarships.
The UK is a great, global, trading nation and one of the firmest advocates for free trade anywhere in the world. We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe. One key element of a Global Britain is the ability for the UK to strike our own trade agreements with countries like Botswana.
UK companies already invest significantly in Botswana, and we are working to support other new investors to bring skills and expertise to support Botswana’s economic diversification. We are continuing work with Botswana on its investment framework, including the development of Public Private Partnerships. And our development programmes across the region continue to support some of the biggest environmental challenges, including water management.
So the message for Botswana is that, while we are leaving the European Union, we are not stepping back from the world. It means, as we’ve set out, that we are an outward looking country, a country that welcomes global talent and investment to Britain, a country that will play its part to the full in our global role contributing to security, peace and prosperity across the world, including in Botswana.
* Katy Ransome
British High Commissioner to Botswana