The Commonwealth will help its members recover from shock and adjust to the UK's decision to withdraw from the European Union, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland told Sky News today.
“It’s been a very difficult time, I think most of the Commonwealth leaders and others, from what I’ve picked up, were rather hoping that the United Kingdom would stay in and some of them, as you know, were very vocal about that.,” she told Sky’s Royal Correspondent Rhianon Mills in a lead story.
Commonwealth counties, she said, “had become very reliant on this close relationship with the United Kingdom who was the voice for the Anglophone Commonwealth”. But she added that while the UK’s decision had caused a great amount of worry and concern it “may be the most phenomenal opportunity to strengthen and widen trading relations.”
Last month Commonwealth experts warned that key industries in some Commonwealth nations could take massive hits if appropriate steps aren’t taken following the UK’s departure from the EU.
The analysis, part of the Commonwealth Secretariat's peer reviewed 'Trade Hot Topics' series, suggested that the uncertainties caused by Brexit may weaken the chances of world economic recovery.
Figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics show its trade with other Commonwealth countries currently accounts for about nine per cent of total exports, compared to 44 per cent with the EU .
But when she spoke before the International Relations Committee of the House of Lords in July, Secretary-General Scotland pledged to “turbo-charge” efforts to increase trade advantages for its 53 member countries. According to Commonwealth research, it is 19 per cent cheaper for countries within the 53-member intergovernmental organisation to trade with one another.
Today she told Sky, “There is no point in howling for the moon and rending our garments if this is where we are. I think many Commonwealth countries are getting over the shock because lots of people thought it wasn’t going to happen and are now saying ok, so what do we do now? I am really about so what do we do now.”
The Secretary-General, who is currently in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, said she was certain the issue will be discussed in the margins of the meeting. Today she will join ministers and parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth to speak at a related event on migration within the 53 member states.
“Brexit has become a burning issue for many of our members. This is why we have put it at the top of our agenda for our finance ministers meeting next month. The ministers will be able to discuss strategies to ensure Brexit becomes a blessing and not a curse.”