Nic Hailey responds to Business Daily article which claims a no-deal Brexit will cost Kenyan exports Ksh 2 billion

Business Daily Brexit headline
The inaccurate headline in Kenya’s Business Daily.

A Business Daily article today which sensationally claimed the Kenyan economy would lose Ksh 2 billion in exports, should the UK leave the EU without a deal, has been refuted by British High Commissioner Nic Hailey.

The article was based on the appendix (page 13) of a research paper commissioned by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), which lists the effects of a no-deal Brexit on individual countries.

It claims a no-deal Brexit would see Kenyan exports to the UK drop by an initial 5 per cent which equates to $20.6 million.

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Responding to the article through his Twitter account, British High Commissioner Nic Hailey described it as “entirely inaccurate”.

“Deal or no deal, the UK will ensure Kenya retains duty-free, quota-free access for exports to the UK. We have made this clear to Kenyan exporters and will keep them briefed,” he added.

British Chamber of Commerce Kenya Chairman Graham Shaw also used Twitter to comment on the article, describing the headline as “rather disappointing” and the article itself “full of inaccuracies”.

In his response, Mr Hailey was echoing comments made by Prime Minister Theresa May during last year’s visit to Kenya, when she said that her government would ensure the East African country retains its duty-free, quota-free access to the UK market and build on the strong trade and investment ties to create even more opportunities for both businesses and consumers.

Theresa May in Kenya
Theresa May during her press conference alongside President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi. Photo: Twitter/UKenyatta

In February Kenya’s Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Trade Chris Kiptoo told also a press conference that Brexit will not disrupt the country’s horticulture exports to the UK and when asked to comment for today’s article he said that regardless of where there is a Brexit deal, “Kenya will continue to access the UK market under the current terms with EU.”

The Principal Secretary later reiterated his comments through his Twitter account, confirming to Business Daily and “all other stakeholders” that the British High Commission has given assurances that regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with deal or not, Britain will ensure Kenya retains duty-free, quota-free access for exports to the UK.

“We have no reason to doubt this assurance,” he added.

After a meeting with Mr Hailey in January, Deputy President William Ruto said the two countries were strengthening their historical ties; deepening collaboration; exploiting emerging markets and maximising opportunities in readiness for the post-Brexit era.

Former Brexit minister Suella Braverman, whose parents emigrated from Kenya to the UK, also predicted a positive future once the country is free from the EU, saying: “In many ways there are some significant medium to long-term economic benefits from No Deal, by opening our markets to global producers from outside of the EU we will increase competition, we will increase choice.”

By splashing with such a dramatic headline, the newspaper does not appear to have considered these comments or ongoing efforts by the UK to sign bilateral agreements that will ensure continuity for existing EU trade agreements.

According to the government page which lists the status of discussions aimed at replicating the effects of these agreements, those with Kenya as part of the East African Community, are said to be ‘ongoing’.

The East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) finalised the negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU on 16 October 2014.

While Kenya and Rwanda signed the EPA in September 2016, and Kenya has ratified it, for the EPA to enter into force, the three remaining EAC members still need to sign and ratify the agreement.

Apart from this one line in the appendix of this UN research paper, there is no apparent indication that Kenyan exports should be negatively impacted by the UK’s departure from the EU.

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