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Ahead of the Commonwealth Summit, Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, is urging the Government to put a stronger focus on the Commonwealth in Britain’s post-Brexit foreign policy.

As Britain enters the Brexit transition period, Bright Blue is calling on the Government to prioritise negotiating Free Trade Agreements with Commonwealth countries, but to ensure our trade deals, where possible, include obligations for partner countries to improve human rights.

Commenting, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, said:

“As the UK is leaving the European Union next year, it is incredibly important that Britain’s foreign policy is now focussed on shaping and leading the work of prominent multinational organisations. In particular, Britain needs to now help strengthen and lead the Commonwealth, which it founded.

“Britain exported two important ideas to the rest of the world – free trade and human rights. These should be the central pillars of Britain’s post-Brexit foreign policy, including through the Commonwealth.

”During the Brexit transition period, Britain should use its chairing of the Commonwealth until 2020 to prioritise negotiating Free Trade Agreements with those countries that are members of it.

“But we should not sacrifice standards for quick wins on trade deals. We should ensure our trade deals, where possible, include obligations for partner countries to improve human rights.

“Britain should use our respected resources such as our military capability, aid budget, diplomatic and intelligence services, institutions such as the BBC and our universities, as well as UK settlement and sanctuary, to influence global affairs. Post-Brexit, all these resources need to be sufficiently supported, funded and reformed. We should maintain spending commitments to our aid and military budgets. And reform our immigration system to ensure talented students, workers and investors are not deterred from coming to this country.”

Commenting, Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said:

The Commonwealth is one of the few organisations in the world that freely associates nations from across the spectrum of wealth and geography. This gives is a resilience and internal integrity that none can match.

“Helping the assets of the wealthier countries expand the economies of the developing nations would see both prosper – one from investment returns and the other from economic growth. Together with the bond of common legal background and language, this puts the Commonwealth nations at a unique advantage to others and would see the lives of millions improve.

“That is why the Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government not to see CHOGM as a single event but rather to make it a priority and launch a new effort to deepen the relationship.  Investing in the partnership properly could define the coming decades of British international relations to the benefit of all 53 nations.”

On the eve of the Commonwealth Summit, Bright Blue released the latest edition of its magazine Centre Write, entitled ‘Global giant?’.

Bright Blue is calling for the following:

  • Britain should prioritise negotiating Free Trade Agreements with Commonwealth countries in the Brexit transition period
  • The Department for International Trade should ensure future trade deals, where possible, include obligations to improve human rights in partner countries.
  • The Department for International Development should match the funding provided by the Foreign Office for the Magna Carta Fund, which supports organisations in other countries to improve human rights.
  • The UK should remain a proud signatory and champion of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • In the Brexit negotiations, Britain should offer – on a conditional basis – continued funding of the European Development Fund.
  • The FCO should establish an independent and high profile Human Rights Advisory Committee to scrutinise the Department’s human rights record.