24 February 2017
In recent years the Commonwealth has appeared to be an irrelevance to many in the international community. Likewise, successive UK governments have failed to make the most out of our relationships with our Commonwealth partners in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Yet this can change. As we chart our course out of the EU and into the world, our vision of an open Britain must mean increased economic cooperation with the Commonwealth.
Speaking in Parliament, Simon said: “It is incumbent on MPs to ensure we get the best trade deals possible. For me, while it might not be the silver bullet to solve all our country’s economic uncertainties, increasing trade with the Commonwealth is just common sense.
“We have historical ties to these countries, and while much of our colonial history is shameful these close ties still exist. Ties, such as the English language and a familiar administrative and legal system, breakdown communication barriers between our businesses and foreign traders.”
Simon added: “Rochdale has a dynamic diaspora of Bangladeshi, Kashmiri and Pakistani communities who have contributed much to our town. Such communities can play a bigger role in driving trade and investment between the UK and the Commonwealth. They often know the countries better than any of us sitting in Westminster”.
A House of Commons report revealed that member states where not making the most of the economic and trading opportunities offered by the Commonwealth.
Rochdale’s MP also urged the Government to maintain its commitment to human rights and democracy.
Simon warned: “I worry that in the coming years Britain will turn a blind eye to police brutality in Kashmir in order to secure a free trade deal with India. Or that Awami League government attacks on political and press freedoms will be ignored as Britain increases economic ties with Bangladesh.
“If we turn a blind eye to injustices and human rights abuses in countries such as these in order to secure trade deals, it would be a damning indictment of our country and would completely hollow out the Commonwealth.
In an earlier Parliamentary debate, Simon asked: “Does the Minister agree that increased assistance to promote democracy in countries such as Bangladesh is a vital part of strengthening ties between the UK and members of the Commonwealth?”
By all means let’s promote trade with the Commonwealth, but while we do so we must remember that it’s our values which make both the Commonwealth and Britain great.