On 23 June, the British people voted to leave the European Union (EU) and British Prime Minister Theresa May has been clear that Brexit means Brexit. But does this mean that the UK will be taking a single step from the centre of the international stage? The answer is a resounding no.
Britain will build a new future from a position of strength, outward facing, internationally focused and ready to embrace the new opportunities that Brexit brings.
Britain is committed to working with our international partners, fully playing our part in ensuring a safer, healthier and more prosperous world. The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, of NATO, of the G7, the G20 and the Commonwealth. The UK was the first member of the G7 to meet the United Nations target of spending 0.7pc of gross national income on international development. This policy, now enshrined in law, alongside the UK’s commitment to spend 2pc of its income on defence is helping to shape the world around us. The UK is resolutely committed to all our operations around the world and will continue to be a strong and reliable ally.
The UK is leading the response against global threats such as the rise of Daesh (the so-called ‘Islamic State’), the scourge of corruption and deadly diseases such as the Ebola virus. We will continue to work with our partners overseas to tackle people smuggling and to defeat the gangs who seek to exploit the vulnerable and desperate for personal gain. The UK through our development effort is working to end extreme poverty – which means tackling the great global challenges – from the root causes of mass migration and disease, to insecurity, conflict and global climate change. We will not renege on the promises we have made and are committed to the Global Goal target of achieving zero extreme poverty by 2030, investing in programmes that provide health, education, water and tackle violence against girls and women.
The UK will always be a trading nation and our partners are guaranteed a strong, business friendly environment. The UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year and is a great place to do business – that will not change. The UK is a world leader in financial services, insurance, computer and information services and has a global reputation for creativity. Britain, currently the 5th largest economy in the world, is open for business and actively welcomes entrepreneurs who wish to invest in the UK. Whilst the UK remains a full member of the EU for now, the British government will ensure that its new relationship with the EU works for business.
Britain is a tolerant and diverse country and welcomes tourists with open arms. A record 36 million visited last year enjoying the historic sites, cultural centres, landmarks and attractions found up and down the land. From castles to museums, beautiful beaches to idyllic countryside, iconic department stores to pulsating sporting events, there is something for every visitor to Britain. And we remain an outward facing nation of travellers, with more British tourists visiting Kenya every year than from any other country.
Our education institutions are world renowned – Britain is home to four of the world’s top ten universities. The UK offers foreign students a world-class education, globally respected universities and qualifications and great career prospects. It’s a two way street, students from Europe and beyond make an enormous and highly valued contribution to our education institutions. Nearly a quarter of young Kenyans looking to study abroad choose the UK. Last year we were proud to host 2,300 Kenyan students, an increase of 2.4% on the year before.
Britain will continue to thrive and prosper, it will continue to be a reliable ally and trusted partner, its creativity and innovation will not be diminished in any way. While the nature of our relationship with the EU is still to be determined, we will want the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, as well as our close friends in North America, the Commonwealth and other important partners around the world.
Kenya is our close friend and partner in a region that matters to us. Kenya is central to the region’s success: on integrating and developing economies; harnessing the potential of new industries, infrastructure and technologies; and building security in places like Somalia, South Sudan and the Great Lakes. The British people’s decision on Brexit does not change that. Nor does it affect my commitment, and that of my Government, to strengthening our partnership even further in the years ahead for the benefit of wananchi in both our countries.
(Nic Hailey is the British High Commissioner to Kenya)