The United Kingdom chose Brexit not because it does not like the Europeans, but because the UK believes the future of trade lies in a broader relationship with the fastest-growing regions in the world – Asia and Africa.
This is according to Nick Latta, Councillor: Prosperity at the UK High Commission in SA.
Latta told delegates at the Africa Ports and Rail Evolution conference in Durban on Wednesday that the goal set by the UK was to be the largest G7 investor in Africa in six years' time.
"Brexit is quite complicated. I am not going to try and predict what will happen over the next 10 days or so. If I had a good answer to that, I would be a forex trader, not a diplomat," Latta said during a presentation which formed part of the KwaZulu-Natal Export Week segment.
"We have big ambitions for trade with Africa, and especially South Africa, which is a leader and influencer for rest of Africa.
"It is clear South Africa is a gateway for many businesses wanting to enter Africa, and many large African companies have headquarters in Johannesburg."
He assured the audience that "[b]ar a few administrative details, any SA exporter will have the same access and experience when exporting to the UK which they have had until now.
More trade, not blocked trade
"We want to minimise the sense of uncertainty about Brexit and beyond. We want to be creating more trade, not blocked trade. We want to create more prosperity in SA and in in the UK."
He said the UK was working in partnership with the SA government to identify priorities for making an economic impact.
"We work to identify things South Africans can do to achieve President Cyril Ramaphosa’s aim to improve South Africa's ease of doing business and to look at removing barriers to trade," said Latta.
"We realise the importance of economic growth in SA being about jobs and making a positive impact on people’s daily lives. We understand the importance of the Fair Trade principle. We want to help SA create conditions to grow the economy sustainably."
"Big numbers mean nothing until you start seeing them having an impact on the ground," he added.
The African Investment Summit, which the UK will host in London in January next year, is one example of what is being done as part of the focus on African investment by the UK.