UK polls: Any Nigerian Agenda?

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO'S COLUMN OPINION

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The United Kingdom will tomorrow Thursday December 12th 2019 pick a new prime minister and also form a government to govern that key and obviously strategic component of the international community.

The election in Britain looks like a straight fight between two forces of Labour and the Conservatives just as either Mr. Jeremy Corbyn of Labour party or Boris Johnson of the Conservatives will be crowned the premier.

This election in Great Britain on December 12th 2019 is dubbed by many as the most unpredictable election and a political process in which any result can just happen because of the issues that have moudled, shaped the debates around the election which are basically two viz the future of Britain’s exit from the European economic bloc and the future of the health sector of the United Kingdom. 

But the contestants are not so much keen on dwelling on any tangible agenda regarding future relationship with Nigeria or Africa even though all the parties should and would certainly do business with Nigeria being the Country with the largest black nation globally. However, Nigeria’s balance of trades with UK isn’t so much better than what the UK and South Africa enjoys. 

Funny enough, even Britain’s biggest and greatest ally- the United states of America is not a significant influence on the emergence of a prime minister tomorrow December 12th 2019 because whereas the Labour party has alleged that the Conservatives led by Boris Johnson plans to sell off the National Health scheme to the United States, the incumbent prime minister strenuously denied this and has maintained his campaign around his solemn promise to conclude Brexit.

The media is not left out of the electoral fray in the United Kingdom even as one of the most influential European magazines – The Economist has already branded tomorrow’s election as ‘Britain’s nightmare before Christmas.’

The Economist, easily the most informed newspaper on British politics has already given a verdict that Britain, a divided country faces an election that will tear if still further apart.

The Economist wrote that at the last election, two years and a political era ago, we regretted the drift to the extremes. Today’s manifestos it says go a lot further. 

The news magazine reports that in 2017 Labour were on the left of the European mainstream but today it would seize 10% of large firms’ equity, to be held in funds paying out mostly to the exchequer rather than to the workers who are meant to be the beneficiaries. 

Labour, it reports would phase in a four-day week, supposedly with no loss of pay. The list of industries to be nationalized seems only to grow. Drug patents could be forcibly licensed. The bill for a rapid increase in spending would fall on the rich and companies, whose tax burden would go from the lowest in the G7 to the highest. It is an attempt to deal with 21st– century problems using policies that failed in the 20th.

The Economist carpeted the Tory leader as follows: “Nor has Mr. Corbyn done anything to dampen concerns about his broader worldview. A critic of Western foreign policy and sympathizer with dictators in Iran and Venezuela who oppose it, he blamed NATO for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Last year he suggested samples of a nerve agent to poison a Russian former spy in Salisbury should be sent to Moscow, so Vladimir Putin could see if it was his.” 

It reports that under such a prime minister, Britain could not rely on receiving American intelligence. The Economist wasn’t done with the Labour leader because according to it Mr. Corbyn has not dealt with the anti-Semitism that has taken root in Labour on his watch. Some Remainers might swallow this as the price of a second Brexit referendum, which Mr. Corbyn has at last promised. 

“We have longed argued for such a vote. Yet Mr. Corbyn’s ruinous plans at home and bankrupt views abroad mean that this newspaper cannot support Labour.”

“The Conservatives, too, have grown scarier since 2017. Mr. Johnson has ditched the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May and struck a worse one, in effect lopping off Northern Ireland so that Britain can leave the European Union’s customs union”. 

The public it says are so sick of the whole fiasco that his promise to “get Brexit done” wins votes. 

The Economist projected that after Britain had left the EU early next year, the hard work of negotiating a trade agreement would begin. 

“Mr. Johnson says he would do this by the end of 2020 or leave without one. No deal is thus still on the table – and a real prospect, since getting a deal in less than a year looks hard. The best estimates suggest that leaving without a deal would make average incomes 8% lower than they would otherwise have been after ten years,” reports The Economist. 

Evening standard reports that the Conservative Party campaign is based on a main pledge to leave the European Union with the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement by January 31 and complete free trade discussions by the close of 2020.

But Boris Johnson has also made a series of spending pledges in his manifesto, such as an extra £34 billion for the NHS to spend annually by 2024, adding 50,000 more nurses and an annual maintenance grant to help student nurses.

The party according to The Evening Standard has also planned 50 million more GP appointments, an end to hospital parking charges for millions of people and an additional £1 billion per year for social care.

“More spending will go towards education in England, £7.1 billion by 2022/23, raising teacher starting salaries to £30,000, rolling out more free schools and giving head teachers greater disciplinary powers.”

Other key pledges include an additional 20,000 police officers, creating another 10,000 prison places and ending the benefit freeze.

A net-zero carbon economy by 2050, an extra £2 billion over four years to eradicate potholes on roads and building a high-speed rail link across the North – dubbed “HS3” are also among the party’s ambitions.

However, Labour will reportedly not endorse either leaving or remaining in the European Union, and plans to instead renegotiate exit terms with Brussels to include a customs union and access to the single market by March.

The newly fledged deal would then be put to another public vote within six months of the election, reports The Evening Standard.

These are aspects of the Labour agenda that would impact Nigeria if it wins tomorrow. 

The official manifesto summarizes what it calls new internationalism and averred that Labour will put human rights; international law and tackling climate change at the heart of our international policies, and use our global influence to end the ‘bomb first, talk later’ approach to security. Labour will always do what is needed to protect the security of people in the UK.

International peace and security will be a primary objective of a Labour government’s foreign policy. Britain deserves better than the Conservatives’ reckless approach to complex global challenges or the outsourcing of UK foreign policy to US President Donald Trump.

Failed military interventions in countries like Libya have worsened security across North Africa, accelerating the refugee crisis.

Our approach will be based on our values. Within the first year of government Labour will:

·        Introduce a War Powers Act to ensure that no prime minister can bypass Parliament to commit to conventional military action. Unlike the Conservatives, we will implement every single recommendation of the Chilcot Inquiry.

·        Conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule.

·        Invest an additional £400 million in our diplomatic capacity to secure Britain’s role as a country that promotes peace, delivers ambitious global climate agreements and works through international organisations to secure political settlements to critical issues.

The Lib Dems have been very clear with their intention to stop Brexit altogether if leader Jo Swinson wins a majority, but otherwise continue to push for a second referendum.

From (https://www.bloomberg.com/) we were told that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lead in Britain’s general election was slashed by more than half in a hotly anticipated opinion poll released two days before the vote. The pound fell as much 0.4% on the news.

The Tories will win 339 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, Labour 231, the Scottish National Party 41, and the Liberal Democrats 15, according to a YouGov forecast on Tuesday.

If the research is accurate, it suggests the race for Number 10 is tightening significantly ahead of Thursday’s election. Johnson gambled on an early vote in an attempt to win a majority so he can force his Brexit deal into law and take the U.K. out of the European Union by the end of January.

In 2016, Africa’s exports to the UK stood at US$16.89 billion, registering a marginal 1.96% increase from the previous year’s total of US$16.57 billion, while Africa’s imports from the UK stood at US$11.40 billion, representing a 5.69% decline from the previous year’s total imports of US$112.08 billion.

The top 20 export commodities comprise of gold and platinum, petroleum oil, petroleum gas, motors (mainly from South Africa), cocoa beans, diamonds, citrus fruits, grapes, tea, coffee, cocoa beans, and wine of fresh grapes. Top 20 major imported commodities include motor cars, petroleum oils, turbojets, powered aircraft, medicaments, taps and cocks, alcoholic spirits, aircraft parts, worn clothing, and electric generators.

Major exporting countries in 2016 were South Africa accounting for (58%), Nigeria (7%), Algeria (5%), Morocco (5%), Egypt (5%), Cote D’Ivoire (3%), Kenya (2%), Angola (2%), Libya (2%), and Ghana (2%).

Since 2012, Africa’s exports to the UK have declined by nearly 50%, from US$US$32.43 billion to the 2016 levels of US$16.89 billion, mainly due to falling commodity prices and global economic slowdown. The commodity driven economic growth driven by a boom in commodity prices has impacted on Africa-UK trade profile. The declining export position has culminated into a shrinking balance of trade surplus for African countries. (https://www.tralac.org/).

Nigerians are looking forward to a Prime minister that will have robust trades and diplomatic relationship with Nigeria to stop the rapid decline in the respect by government of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.  We await the result from the British voters tomorrow. 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.com,www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.

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