The political and economic fundamentals of the United Kingdom (UK) remain very strong even as madness and mayhem descend upon global financial markets after the Brexit voted 52%-48% in favour of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) in 2 years time.
Global financial markets protested as they are unable to grasp the inevitability of the emergence of an unfamiliar new world order having a independent, politically and economically strong UK unhinged from the EU. That the UK has never been truly and fully an integrated part of the EU seem to be lost on the major market players as they allow their fears and ignorance to fuel massive sell-down of stocks regardless of their materiality and relevance to UK and/or EU economies.
The UK economy is 4% of the world’s GDP; and at nearly US$3 Trillion is the 9th largest in the world and the 2nd largest in the EU. With a reducing national budget deficit, the UK has been the fastest growing among the developed nations, being the 9th largest exporter and the 5th largest importer with the world, including the EU.
In terms of foreign direct investments (FDI), the UK has the 3rd largest stock (behind USA and China) of inward FDI worth US$1.7 Trillion as well as the 2nd largest stock of outward FDI, of which a significant 28% (about US$35Billion) flows into the EU.
The grandiose EU dream has become nightmarish over the years. The peace and prosperity envisioned at its creation are mired in despair, unemployment, debts and fiscal disarray. EU’s share of the world GDP has fallen in the past 40 years from 37% in 1973 to less than 23% today, and still declining. EU unemployment remains high when compared with UK’s 7.5%, with countries like Spain at 23% and Greece above 25%. The relentless economic EU economic and political crisis has no solution because it is grounded in the very conceptual nature of a “United European” notion that forces a group of 28 nations with very disparate economies and fiscal discipline, resulting thereby in endemic economic paralysis and stunted development.
Post-Brexit UK is finally freed of EU ideological, economic and political shackles to pursue her own destiny and dreams. Brexit opens up tremendous opportunities for the UK to expand its own trade with current trading partners like ASEAN, Commonwealth, Africa and the USA. And to create alliances with other trading blocs eg the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) around the Pacific Rim, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the emergent ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) without having to obtain EU approval.
ASEAN is an economic community of 10 South-East Asian nations with a combined GDP of US$2.4 Trillion and 630 million people. For ASEAN, the UK is a main export and FDI destination in Europe. ASEAN also receive significant FDI from the UK. The UK-ASEAN relationship can be expected to deepen and expand in volume and financially post-Brexit.
As a start, a UK-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (UKAFTA) would make logical sense and easiest to model after the proposed EU-ASEAN FTA currently under negotiation. Alternatively, individual ASEAN nations could fashion their own respective FTA with the UK, using the 2015 EU-Singapore FTA (EUSFTA) as a template model. Individual UK-ASEAN Member FTAs would not jeopardize the eventual conclusion of a EU-ASEAN FTA. There are multi-billion dollar infrastructural projects in ASEAN awaiting FDI and investments from the UK, EU and the rest of the world.
Post-Brexit UK is a strong competitor of the EU and other developed nations in the global FDI and trade space. ASEAN sits at the heart of two high-profile mega-FTAs: the TPP and the RCEP between ASEAN and its six FTA partners, including China, Japan and India. These two giant trade initiatives will inevitably draw ever more economic activities and FDI to the region and away from the transatlantic trading area, to the detriment of the EU.
The continuing turmoil in the financial markets post-Brexit ignore the solid inherent strengths of the UK economiy and her financial institutions. Her political stability is not weakened by the Brexit vote, but is instead strengthened by the boldness and courage of her political leaders from all political persuasions to trust in the judgment of the UK people. The doomsayers and gloomy outlooks for post-Brexit UK have no objective basis and are grounded in their fears of the unknown dynamics of a EU with the UK.
The UK is also the peer leader of the Commonwealth, a huge loosely-organised bloc of 53 countries with a combined GDP of over US$9 Trillion.
And when the economic radarscope of the UK scans more wider globally, the Commonwealth and ASEAN will become her new prosperity platforms as the UK re-kindles old legacy relations in the dawn of a new global order now unfolding and unpacking before us in an uncharacteristic and certain manner.
Michael Heng aka Mikros