Re-opening the Silk Road; a fresh hope for post-Brexit Britain?

Re-opening the Silk Road – a fresh hope for post-Brexit Britain?

Sebastian MacDonald Blog, Brexit, Retail

With UK politics in disarray after the electoral upset last month, we have seemingly learned two key lessons. Firstly £100m seems to be the going rate to secure the loyalty of an MP for 5 years, and secondly public opinion remains firmly divided on parliamentary leadership going into Brexit.
As policymakers and PR gurus spin and spit their way through the tumultuous Brexit storm, it is easy to focus on the ramifications and limitations of an EU exit and miss the plains of global economic opportunity that surely awaits. As evidenced by Theresa May’s trade mission to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, new bilateral trade relationships outside of the EU may hold the key to post-Brexit prosperity. And whatever one may think about the agreeability of some of these new partners, improving global partnerships with India, the Gulf and of course China would seem a laudable, if not overdue, endeavor.
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that existed long before our current European fallout. The 4,000-mile caravan tract followed the Great Wall of China, the Pamirs, Afghanistan, the Levant and then across the Mediterranean Sea and for centuries was the economic pivot of the East and West. And whilst a modern renaissance of camel-back transportation seems unlikely, a resurgence to this once magnificent display of global partnership is apparent. Proposed in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) is a major infrastructure programme that aims to connect Chinese and European markets via Central Asia. Hugely ambitious, the project will invest hundreds of billions of dollars into international transportation and is likely to rely heavily on experienced outsourced partners. Following President Xi’s historic state visit in 2015, the arrival of the first Sino-UK freight train could the fledgling signs of dawning opportunity for at least Britain’s transportation and infrastructure economies; we just need to keep Southern Rail well hidden.
However, the UK has arguably already been complacent towards international enthusiasm and now Brexit Secretary David Davis warns that global deals will need to wait 12-24 months after the UK leaves the EU. So, as we deal with the ramifications of the 2017 general election, the UK must also recognise that the outside world is not on hold. Re-opening the Silk Road is a huge opportunity for Britain to re-establish herself on the global stage and forge a strong trading partnership with world’s second largest economy. But this opportunity is sure to pass us by if our political focus is on closing doors whilst not opening new ones.