Citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum on Thursday with a 52-48 percent margin. After the poll results were revealed on Friday morning, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would step down from his post, paving the way for a new government to form in October. Mr. Cameron was one of the leaders for the “Remain” campaign which sought to keep the UK in the EU.
The “Leave” campaign, headed by former London mayor Boris Johnson, enjoyed strong support in England and Wales. Britons in Scotland and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU. Many commentators have noted that this EU referendum follows the Scottish Independence referendum held two years ago. Many speculators have said that Scottish independence grievances will likely enter the political foray again in response to the EU referendum.
Britain’s exit from the EU, dubbed “Brexit,” has shocked the global economy, causing the value of the pound to plummet to its lowest rate in over 30 years. The economic consensus suggests that the UK will fall into a recession, the effects of which will have global implications, including many African nations engaged with trade and immigration to Europe.
Already, the South African rand has lost more than 8 percent of its value against the US dollar and 6.6 percent against the Japanese Yuen. The UK is South Africa’s fourth-largest trading partner, so a recession in the UK will likely have continued impact on trade between the two countries.
Speculators have suggested that Nigeria might also experience a reduction in trade with Britain. Last year, trade between the two countries was worth roughly $8b and was expected to rise to $28b by the end of the decade, according to The Africa Report. Bola Akinterinwa, Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, echoed some concerns.
“Nigeria has been benefiting from the free trade tariff access of the British to the EU. Now with the Brexit, that [free trade tariff access] may become a little bit difficult for Nigeria,” he said.
Mr. Akinterinwa also said that trade between Nigeria and EU member states could be affected.
“With the withdrawal of the British from the EU, now the Economic Partnership Agreement [between Nigeria and the EU] will no longer apply to Nigeria within the framework of Nigeria’s bilateral relationship with the British,” Mr. Akinterinwa said.
There is a chance, however, that the UK will seek to strengthen trade relations with Commonwealth states such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Botswana, according to BBC Africa.
Brexit will most likely affect the UK’s development aid spending. While Britain has already pledged 860 million pounds in aid to Nigeria in 2016, any economic recession brought on by Brexit will force the UK to cut its aid spending.
Finally, Brexit could impact Africans seeking to move to the UK. Much of the public support for Brexit stemmed from xenophobic sentiments so the UK can be expected to tighten its inflow of migrants.