Botswana is perplexed at the uncertainty arising from the imminent dissolution of the United Kingdom government together with the ramifications that will arise therefrom, says Chief negotiator, Phadza Butale. On 24 May, embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party on Friday 7 June so that a successor can be chosen.
In preparation for ensuring continuity of trade relations between the UK, SACU and Mozambique once the EU- SADC EPA no longer applies to the UK, the SACU countries plus Mozambique appointed Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo as coordinator of the negotiations.Kenewendo successfully led Southern African Customs Union (SACU) member states and Mozambique to sign a historic joint political statement with United Kingdom (UK) Minister of Trade and Policy George Hollingbery last August in Cape Town, South Africa.
May’s resignation comes just three weeks after Botswana Trade ministry officials wrote to the UK counterparts with a view to resume the negotiations at technical level in order to conclude outstanding issues by the end of June 2019. Asked what May’s resignation mean for Botswana’s trade relations with the UK and to the state if SACU +Mozambique negotiations would continue, Butale told Botswana Guardian that they note with “keen interests the political developments in the UK and their possible ramifications for us”. He said they have been engaged in negotiations with the UK as SACU and Mozambique for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the UK in an effort to preserve the mutual benefits accruing from the SADC, EU and EPA post BREXIT.
Normally the questions that arise are what does this mean for Botswana (and indeed SACU and Mozambique) and the Negotiations for the EPA that we have been engaged in, do the UK negotiators require new mandate from the incoming government? What does this mean for the EU/UK negotiation on the Withdrawal Agreement? What happens to the twelve (12) extensions that were granted to the UK by the European Council? “For now we shall monitor the situation closely and await word from our partners as events unfold,” he said.
For her part Deputy High Commissioner at the British High Commission in Gaborone, Emily Summers said it will be for the next Prime Minister and government to take the process with the EU forward. “The UK continues to work with partner countries, including SACU and Mozambique, to conclude bilateral trade continuity agreements to secure continuity for the effects of existing free trade agreements as we leave the EU, including in the event of a No Deal,” she said. She added that if they are to maintain the full benefits of the current EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement, discussions between the UK and SACU and Mozambique should move towards conclusion at the earliest opportunity.
She explained that Prime Minister May will continue to serve as Prime Minister until the process has concluded. “As Prime Minister May said, it will be for her successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the 2016 referendum,” said Summers.