Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth countries raise fears about economic 'shock' of Brexit

Commonwealth countries have raised fears about the economic "shock" of Brexit, with particular concerns it could damage their thriving exports market into Britain.

Research by the Commonwealth Secretariat found the UK was the fourth largest market for Commonwealth exports, accounting for more than 10% of produce from some countries.

The impact on tourism, foreign aid and investment was also among the concerns of the 53 Commonwealth countries, which used to form the British Empire.

Patricia Scotland, secretary-general of the London-based group, said: "The Commonwealth is 53 countries and the challenge of Brexit faces all of them.

"Member states warned of the possible knock-on effect on key industries in the Commonwealth before the vote.

"The task for us now is to help the Commonwealth move from shock to solutions.

"Today we're publishing an analysis of the possible economic implications on specific Commonwealth countries.

"But it also begins to explore the opportunities that can result from Brexit, if countries have the right support."

Baroness Scotland added there was great potential for new trade deals after Brexit between Britain and the Commonwealth, fuelled by historic ties in trade, law and language.

Commonwealth members were providing eight of the UK's top 10 imported products, the report found.

The power to negotiate new and improved trade deals with other countries beyond the EU was a key argument put forward by those who campaigned for Leave in this summer's referendum.

But the Commonwealth Secretariat's report laid out the stark challenge potentially posed by Brexit to other countries in the Commonwealth.

Botswana, Belize, Seychelles, Mauritius and Bangladesh all send more than 10% of their exports to Britain.

For Botswana, some 54.5% of its exports are sold to the UK.

But Britain's ability to buy in goods has been hit by the collapse of sterling, which recorded a 31-year low against the dollar on Tuesday.

This collapse in the value of the pound was also driving concern about a possible downturn in British tourists visiting the Commonwealth.

Around 60% of Commonwealth countries were small states, and for most of these the UK was in the top three countries from which tourists came, the report said.

A further risk was the impact that a falling pound might have on the flow of remittances from Commonwealth citizens living in Britain back to their home countries.

Migrants in the UK sent 12 billion US dollars home to other Commonwealth countries in 2012, the report said.

Commonwealth finance ministers have gathered in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday, where Brexit will be discussed as a "key concern".