My advice to Theresa May is “come to Ghana”. Come to the smaller countries in the developing world, trying to break through into the global market place. Come to the African Commonwealth who have been heinously undermined by multinational trade deals piped through the one-stop-shop of plutocratic Brussels where big business have dictated terms which have seen West African nations stripped of tariffs that afforded one third of their national GDP, being forced to trade on even terms when the ground is far from that. This week Theresa May said Brexit offered the UK the opportunity to be a world leader. Come to Ghana, Mrs May, or as Ghanaians would say ‘Akwaaba’. I am sure you will be very welcome indeed.
By Alexandra Phillips l November 20, 2016
UK Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in Delhi, India for bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi/Photo: AFP
ACCRA, GHANA – I’m writing my latest instalment from Ghana, where I have come to help with the launch of an international bank. Established as the official export credit agency of the United States it now has outposts around the world, financing and insuring foreign purchases facing commercial risk.
Such investment and financial protection is needed, particularly in the developing world where economic parity is still light years away. Speaking to the Chief Executive in Ghana, an African and Western educated economist who has held a number of top directorships in both the public and private sectors across Africa, I inevitably had to ask about his perspective on Brexit. Like so many leading figures I have spoken to over the years in developing world Commonwealth countries, his view was that he simply could not understand why it did not happen sooner. Membership of the EU had not only harmed the UK’s sovereignty, but reduced its standing in a global political context. Britain has historically been a world leader, but gave up its elevated position to become part of the EU, turning its back on the Commonwealth of Nations.
This sentiment was echoed by many during Theresa May’s trip to India, where the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, reportedly gave the new British PM rather short shrift. It was no surprise that May commenced her post-Brexit international charm offensive in India. Despite such economic disparity and gnawing poverty across the entire subcontinent, India is fast becoming a modern day super power, producing a remarkable number of billionaires and being courted internationally as part of the growing new era BRICS nations. But the once heralded relationship between ‘old friends’ has been left in tatters due to a number of factors. Britain’s response to escalating migration has embittered many in India who particularly outline the increasing blocks on student visas for the ever education hungry country, where a degree remains at the forefront of aspiration as the most valuable status symbol among India’s young. In order to assuage her own electorate, May was unable to promise any visa relaxation of significance for Indians coming to the UK other than the super-wealthy, keenly aware of the majority sentiment among those who voted to leave the EU.
The increasing numbers of billionaire businessmen in India also saw Britain strategically placed as a door to the rest of the EU, a go between for two Anglophone cousins with parallel democratic and legal systems. But Britain’s refusal to be relegated to a mere bridge of convenience to Europe and instead go it alone will now take a serious PR offensive by the British Government, having neglected Commonwealth kith and kin for decades: A PR exercise that is becoming all the more challenging due to the constant media scoffing at the so-called Brexit-Trump phenomenon. What should be hailed in either country as bold but democratic change has been so run down globally by often emotional rather than pragmatic opposition, that May found herself deemed prime representative of a devil country turning its back on the world in favour of protectionism before she has even boarded an aeroplane.
This hyperbolic hypersensitivity that seemingly propelled both the UK and US to pursue deeply divergent paths from legacy politics will only continue to polarise political will, and lead to the demise of any form of consensus politics. Of course, the next challenge for May could be facing her own Parliament, if the Supreme Court finds in favour of Parliamentary Sovereignty in activating Article 50. News this week that the draft bill to be put before UK MPs is only three lines long, lending zero wriggle room for negotiation or interpretation, is hardly surprising. The draft legislation to be potentially voted on is reportedly ‘bullet proof’ having been laboriously scripted by top legal brains in order to expose those who do choose to vote it down as agitators against direct democracy and the will of the British people.
Understandably, as a passionate Brexiteer, I am often demoralised by media reports about those seeking to destabilise and disrupt the process, something people like I have fought hard to achieve for so many years. The leaked ‘memo’, apparently unsolicited by the Government, from an accountant at Price Waterhouse Cooper, is yet another example of someone wilfully disrupting a democratic process by suggesting to the media that the government is in disarray over their Brexit agenda. Not to mention professionally abhorrent, it is maliciously and deliberately disruptive to the country’s government. The ecstasy of a victory for democracy has felt very short lived. We have been unable to voice our joy for fear of being attacked as racist or nationalist, the majority has yet again been poked at, criticised, held up as somehow degenerate compared to a myopic, if not entirely blind, adherence to a perceived morally superior minority position garnered from decades of insidious propaganda. It’s no surprise that Oxford English Dictionary made ‘Post-truth’ its word of the year, with each side accusing the other of the distortion of reality in the static of an overcrowded communications market place.
These are testing times for the West but there is real opportunity. I was encouraged today by news that UK MEPs are seeking to cut Air Passenger Duty on flights outside the EU as a nod to global trade. As someone who travels frequently, particularly to the developing world, I am always shocked by how exorbitant taxes on air travel are when the total cost of a flight is broken down. It is another positive step in the right direction, is unashamedly pro-business and the sort of attitude we need to adopt when emancipated from top-down transcontinental socialism.
My advice to Theresa May is “come to Ghana”. Come to the smaller countries in the developing world, trying to break through into the global market place. Come to the African Commonwealth who have been heinously undermined by multinational trade deals piped through the one-stop-shop of plutocratic Brussels where big business have dictated terms which have seen West African nations stripped of tariffs that afforded one third of their national GDP, being forced to trade on even terms when the ground is far from that. Where they have been ordered to minimise the state subsidy of agriculture in order to trade with the EU, while exports from Europe come from farms almost wholly supported by exorbitant hand outs, accounting for the lion’s share of the EU budget. Come to Ghana, whose main friend in recent times has been China, who in return for investing in infrastructure, is grabbing minerals by the shipload and cynically competing on the ground with small Ghanaian producers in the domestic market. Let’s provide gentle encouragement and strike trade deals on terms sensitive to the lack of economic parity, but beneficial to both countries. Come to Ghana, where we speak the same language, share the same humour and have such a deep and undeniable interconnected history and I would venture where the UK has a moral post-colonial responsibility.
This week Theresa May said Brexit offered the UK the opportunity to be a world leader. Come to Ghana, Mrs May, or as Ghanaians would say ‘Akwaaba’. I am sure you will be very welcome indeed.
Alexandra Phillips is former Head of Media for UKIP, the political party in Britain that campaigned to leave the EU and was aide to its charismatic leader Nigel Farage. She left UKIP after the referendum victory and joined the Conservative Party in order to ensure other big political ambitions are met in the U.K. She lives and works in London as a political advisor and communications consultant. Ms. Phillips is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis, of the conservative-online-journalism center at the Washington-based Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.