Liam Fox, International Trade minister, is doing the rounds within The Commonwealth in a bid to ensure that Britain can maintain strong trade agreements with those nations. The amusingly dubbed ‘Empire 2.0’ is one of the grand plans for post-Brexit Britain and was one of the major plans cited by key leave campaigners during the referendum. But maintaining those key trade relationships is going to be difficult, irrespective of whether they are part of the Commonwealth or not.

The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation consisting of 52 nations, most of which were territories that were part of the British Empire.

Since the dismantling of the Empire the Commonwealth has become more an economic and trade consensus.

Working with Australia

Fox’s latest trip has seen him in Australia where he told Canberra MPs that the UK is keen for a trade deal with the nation. He told a parliament committee that the UK government wants to expedite a free trade deal with Australia post-Brexit. In 2016, the UK government had established a bilateral Trade Working Group to begin the process of scoping out a future Free Trade Agreement. This took place in December involving Lord Price CVO, UK minister for Trade Policy and Steven Ciobo MP, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Australia are eyeing a relax in immigration rules as part of their negotiations, as reported by the Financial Times.

But the UK has already significant investment with Australia, there is already a trade deal in place. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) around 1500 UK businesses in the nation, it is the UK’s 14th largest export market ahead of other Commonwealth nations, Canada, and India, exporting around £8.3bn in 2015.

The UK is the 2nd largest investor in Australia with over £300bn invested in Australia and the UK are the second largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination for Australia with 97 FDI projects in 2015/16, rising 20% from the previous year.

The Chancellors trip to India

The latest trip comes after recently Phillip Hammond visited India, a foray that ended with Hammond having to defend his governments immigration policy after concerns were raised over the drop in Indian students within the UK.

He said, “There is no doubt that there is a perception in India that Indian students are somehow being impeded from going to the UK,” Hammond continued “There is no quota, no limits, no restrictions on Indian students applying to British universities. Ninety percent of Indian students who apply for a student visa get a student visa.”

The Chancellor went onto say the crackdown had seen Indian student numbers fall, but they “are now slowly rising again,” he said. “We want to see them rising more quickly, and I can only go on making that statement: we are open to Indians.”

British history and Brexit

These statements have been met with disappointment by those keen to significantly reduce immigration into the UK.

This was a key point in the vote for Brexit and has played a key role in general elections since 2010, despite evidence explicitly stating that it’s not an issue. The government assume the Commonwealth will open their doors to the UK because of shared history, culture, and laws.

The government seem to forget that several Commonwealth nations, in particular India, suffered a great deal of oppression and violence due to the British Empire, the dubbed ‘Empire 2.0’ scheme is an insult to the history and those who fought and died for their true sovereignty and freedoms.

Plus, without unfettered access to the single market, Britain becomes a less attractive trade route which means what the UK offers as a nation will be vital in securing free trade deals in the future.

What the government offers the likes of India and Australia will set out what they can take to the other nations of the Commonwealth, as well as other nations around the world but the processes will be difficult but vital in securing the future of the UK.