Eac Scrambles For Post-Brexit Deal With Uk.
East African countries are in the rush to secure bilateral trade deals with the United Kingdom as Post-Brexit era appears on the horizon and previous multilateral trade agreements outlive their timelines. Britain voted to exit the EU in 2016 and formally left the bloc in January this year. A one-year transitional period means that all previous trade deals the UK signed with other countries, through the European bloc, will remain until the transitional period is over.
Despite ongoing negotiations between UK and EAC countries over a new deal, there have been delays over lack of consensus to arrive at a pact that puts interests of EAC block above national interests of member states. In the scramble to find a model for its post-Brexit relationship with the United Kingdom, East African countries want to negotiate more of bilateral than multilateral trade deals that largely mirror their national interests. The East African Community is racing against time to get a new deal as UK trade partner states are left with only four months for the current trade arrangement to expire thus ending duty and quota-free access to the British market. The breakneck speed of the negotiations reflects the urgency on both sides to get an agreement before Brexit finally takes full effect on December 31.
Rwanda which has been carrying an instrumental role in the bloc’s negotiations is also pushing for Post- Brexit deal that will give her exports free access to the UK market. Tanzania, on the other hand, is bargaining for a deal that will shield her local markets from foreign competition while at the same time benefiting from Britain’s exit from the European Union Market. The Kenyan government is worried that failure to secure a multilateral post-Brexit deal with the UK would hurt her economy which is considered hard hit by the shocks caused by COVID-19 Pandemic. Uganda is concerned that the timelines are short and wants more to understand what the new trade arrangement means for her future relationship with UK. She wants talks to continue until December, saying that would allow for sufficient time to discuss the intricacies of the new trade arrangement.
The EAC is supposed to have signed a draft agreement, but it looks there is a deadlock that has stalled the progress of the land mark deal. It is now becoming increasingly clear that members of the East African Block want to enter into pact with UK individually and pursue national interests that vary from one member to another. This is undermining the spirit of Cooperation upon which the block has been firmly anchored. This development seems to be alienating the spirit of East African Community which ideally requires the regional body to be negotiating such trade deal as a block. Member countries are pursuing their national interests in conflict with customs union policy which is supposed to engage UK on matters of sealing trade deals.
A proposal from the European nation shows that its government wants similar privileges under the current EU agreement with the East African trade bloc, explaining that negotiating a completely different deal could require a new mandate that could take years to materialise.