EXCL Government minister slams Whitehall bid to create post-Brexit 'empire 2.0'
A government minister has dismissed as "nonsense" suggestions that Britain wants to create an "empire 2.0" by boosting trade with Commonwealth nations after Brexit.
Lord Ahmad insisted the move - which has been openly discussed by Whitehall officials - was unnecessary and not wanted by members of the 52-nation body.
The Times reported in March that the UK wanted to improve trade links with African Commonwealth nations as it prepares for life outside the EU.
It said the "empire 2.0" description was coined by officials worried about the high priority being given to trade deals with Commonwealth nations.
But in an interview with The House magazine, Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad was scathing in his assessment of the idea.
He said: "It’s not useful and it’s nonsense, frankly speaking. This is about the equal partnership of 52 nations who bring some incredible strength – you know, I’m a living, working example of the Commonwealth. I’m the son of parents who were born in India, who migrated to Pakistan, came to Scotland, settled here and made a life for themselves.
"My wife, her family originate from Pakistan. She moved to Australia, got bought up there, she married a Brit and we now live here. My children are living, working examples of what the strength of the Commonwealth is. That’s what the opportunity is.
"And this nonsense that people peddle – I’m yet to hear it – I sit with Caribbean high commissioners, I’ve been out to Africa, I’m going out to the Caribbean, I’ve been out to Asia, I’ve been out to Australasia, I’ve been out to the Pacific, not one person has raised that issue.
"I think those who are raising it are trying to peddle something which doesn’t exist. We believe in the Commonwealth, because there’s this huge network of 2.4 billion people, who share great diversity. But I go by the strength of one thing that I honestly believe in, which is true of our country and it’s true of the Commonwealth; that in diversity, lies our strength."