In what direction the two trading partners are heading?
Africa UK trade has a long history to trace back. Both are at present members of EU and are one of the leading traders, not only to each other but also with other countries as well. With Brexit underway, the situation has changed and there are some uncertainties as well as confirmations from both the side. But what will happen in actual situation is a question that will be answered only when the Brexit will happen in 2019. There are some changes as well as on the way agreements that are to be finalized but not without considering many more matters that are coming in the way.
Both the sides are trying hard to have agreements that do not hinder in the way of trade with other parties as it will not be in favor of UK as well as Africa especially South Africa as being a major trading partner. Africa does not want to disturb its relations with EU as well as UK and it is creating a difficult situation for Africa.
EPA and ongoing Discussions:
EPA is not an ordinary agreement for Africa. It took almost ten years to negotiate the treaty and six Southern African countries are a part of this. Due to this agreement, the access to EU for South Africa in agricultural products has improved in return of recognition of geographical indications on European food stuff etc.
What South Africa want is that whatever agreement between UK cargo and Cargo to Africa is going to be, it follows the line of hard-earned EPA. As it is Brexit UK and not Africa is exiting European Union, the situation is complicated and Africa has to maintain a balance between the two as it does not want to leave any of them. British High Commissioner to South Africa Nigel Casey has confirmed that they are not going to allow any gap in the agreement and make it fall away for Africa.
UK officials are also concerned about time frame before Brexit. The agreements that are going to take place not only concern South Africa but also other southern African countries that are involved in the EPA.
So, if the talks are going to commence, they have to spread to all the countries and not only to one and the officials intend to do it necessarily. But until unless Britain is a part of EU, these agreements cannot be made effective or reach a final point.
What more to add:
Casey said that EPA only dealt with trade of products, but if the talks are going to be only between the two then chances of including services are also there. These services form a large part of UK and African economies and will prove to be beneficent for both.
But there are constraints that hinder the easy flow of from one end to another and discussions are taking place on the two options present to ease them. One is whether to make government-to-government agreement or the ones that are sector specific. Every effort is being done to achieve arrangements to avoid any gap in the smooth flow of trade during the transfer.