Foreign aid in a post-Brexit world

With the recent forced resignation of Priti Patel from the Department For International Development, it is time to develop the Liberal Democrats’ foreign policy in a post-Brexit Britain. It is time for the Liberal Democrats to call for a more liberal approach to the world and we should do this by following Patel’s good work on ‘trade for aid’, promoting workers’ rights and promoting freer and fairer trade.

Ms Patel started to transform what the foreign aid budget was used for, yet with her forced resignation, the Liberal Democrats must surely take up this gauntlet to champion further reforms in the name of liberal and democratic values. As Ms Patel was hoping to give developing countries, many of them Commonwealth nations, extra money for developing their industries, such as manufacturing. The Liberal Democrats must continue this work, but further it also by accepting trade with countries such as Kenya once workers’ rights reach a standard that the United Kingdom is content with. Brexit may be going downhill with this government, but the United Kingdom most certainly has its influence – this influence could improve the human condition in developing nation-states. Indeed, it is important to recognise that this can only happen after Brexit as the European Union’s trade policy is decided by the European Commission who have their own high standards which they will not relent on and are, in some cases, too high for developing nations to comply with.

Of course, the most controversial figure in the referendum campaign was the £350 million a week. I will not repeat this, but using the website for parliament, the United Kingdom pays roughly £8 billion net into the European Union’s budget. Of course, most of this money should go to vital services, yet, there is also a compelling argument for the United Kingdom to increase its foreign aid budget to aid developing nations which will in turn increase the United Kingdom’s capacity for trade after Brexit. If the United Kingdom can aid developing countries, it will help to reduce illegal migration, begin to mitigate the need for refugee status and improve economic prosperity where it is much needed.

Free trade most certainly helps to alleviate poverty under the right conditions. It is vital that the United Kingdom should help developing countries increase their capacity to trade so that they might join the global market and provide jobs for the communities which generates more wealth to fund key projects such as education, health, etc.

The Liberal Democrats, rightly, argue for a Brexit deal where the United Kingdom can trade extremely closely with the European Union’s single market. However, if this is not going to be an option with this Conservative government, then the Liberal Democrats must be the political party to champion free trade, workers’ rights and increased economic growth in developing nations.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Easter 13th Nov '17 - 2:19pm

    As long as free trade is not at the expense of UK workers, by encouraging job offshoring, immigration to undercut wages, ISDS provisions, and opening up public services to global markets.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Nov '17 - 2:32pm

    This piece has some good things in it but is generally rather muddled. Using aid and trade to help “developing countries” improve their economies and conditions is not the same as “free trade”, whatever is meant by that in any context.

  • A very rose tinted view of Ms Patel.

  • Ben Rayment 13th Nov '17 - 3:22pm

    Tony Greaves – I completely agree that using aid and trade is not the same as free trade. However, I would like to stress that in my article, I was trying more to show how the government might use foreign aid to assist developing nations to tap into the global market. This, in my opinion will be better for the respective countries and better for the United Kingdom.

    David Raw – I do not have a rose tinted view of Ms Patel. However, I do not see the harm in exploring policies which are liberal and democratic at their core.

  • Laurence Cox 13th Nov '17 - 3:25pm

    There is a case for re-directing foreign aid towards some Commonwealth countries such as those in the Caribbean who have been suffering from hurricanes. We know that global warming will mean more and stronger hurricanes in future, so buildings, electricity supply, and communications need to be made more resilient. As a quid pro quo we need to seek higher corporate tax rates from those ex-colonies like the Turks and Caicos Islands who act as tax havens, with the aim of using it to fund future disaster relief in the area.

  • Ben Rayment 13th Nov '17 - 8:09pm

    David Raw – I have not said I like everything about her. Simply reading some of the plans that she has put forward when she was in government doesn’t seem to me to be wholly bad. I think these are things to be explored. Throw all the quotes you like, it doesn’t stop me from believing in some policies and trying to engage in a debate of policy; not a personal assassination of Priti Patel – she has done that herself.

  • Much the best way to help people in developing countries is to eliminate tariff barriers. This would also benefit UK consumers by reducing prices and widening the diversity of goods on offer…

    ‘Trade the immoral Customs Union for fruitful deals that benefit the developing world’ [July 2017]:

    …the Customs Union exports poverty to Africa and the rest of the developing world. It does this by erecting punitive tariff barriers that discourage trade and ensure penury for agricultural workers, from South Africa to Morocco.

    The EU has increased its number of Customs Union tariffs by 1,494, to 12,691 since 2009, and last year raised its tariff on importing oranges fivefold from 3.2 per cent to 16 per cent – specifically to protect Spanish fruit by pricing out of the market South African oranges, first taken to the Cape by the Dutch back in 1654.

    Likewise, the EU’s tariffs on importing raw products such as coffee beans are kept intentionally low so that they can easily enter our market, but tariffs on roasted coffee are set punitively higher so that the added value is achieved in the EU. This is how Germany makes more money from coffee processing than the whole of Africa makes from exporting its beans.

    ‘How the EU starves Africa into submission’ [October 2015]:

    The charge on cocoa is even more debilitating. It is reported that the “EU charges (a tariff) of 30 per cent for processed cocoa products like chocolate bars or cocoa powder, and 60 per cent for some other refined products containing cocoa.”

    The impact of such charges goes well beyond lost export opportunities. They suppress technological innovation and industrial development among African countries. The practice denies the continent the ability to acquire, adopt and diffuse technologies used in food processing. It explains to some extent the low level of investment in Africa’s food processing enterprises.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Nov '17 - 2:29pm

    Development aid must be invested wisely. If it is not to be an arm of our trade strategy, it must be used to invest in infrastructure, education and health services, and only used for humanitarian purposes in an emergency. It is not easy when people are dying to insist on infrastructure building but teach a person to fish etc.

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