Western Cape watching Brexit implications on trade, investment and tourism

Amid continued uncertainties related to Brexit, Wesgro, the Western Cape's tourism, trade and investment promotion agency, is keeping a close watch on the implications for companies.

The UK is the province’s second largest export market and largest investor by number of projects, accounting for 25% of all foreign investment projects in recent years, as well as being the Western Cape’s largest tourism market.

Britain is South Africa's second largest trading partner in the EU, after Germany.

"Understanding the disruption and uncertainty that Brexit creates for local exporters to the UK, and local companies doing business in the UK, Wesgro will aim to host a seminar with local businesses to provide the most up-to-date information on possible Brexit scenarios and outcomes," Wesgro said in a statement on Wednesday.

The House of Commons will vote on a Labour-sponsored motion of no confidence in the government on Wednesday night. This follows UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft agreement with the European Union being resoundingly opposed by Parliament on Tuesday.

Several options

There are a number of developments that could take place before the March 29 deadline, which will affect Britain’s economy and global growth. The UK could try to re-negotiate Brexit terms with the EU, fresh general elections could be held, a second referendum could be instituted, or the UK could revoke Section 50 and opt to remain within the bloc.

Minister of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape, Beverly Schäfer, said that as the UK is one of the province’s major trading partners, understanding the impact of Brexit is crucial.

"Local businesses should arm themselves with [as much] information as possible in order to navigate the changes and uncertainty, and the Wesgro seminar will go a long way towards providing clarity in this regard," Schäfer said.

In February 2018, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DTI) and Wesgro signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure continuity between the Western Cape and the UK, post-Brexit.

At a national level, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said on Wednesday that the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which includes SA, had "practically finished" discussions with Britain for a trade deal with similar favourable terms to the agreement reached with the EU in 2016.

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