THE grouping of countries that were once colonies under the British Empire, which became known as the Commonwealth since its first meeting at the heads of government level in 1971, is here to stay.
This was affirmed by British High Commissioner to Malaysia Victoria Marguerite Treadell at a lecture on “UK-Post Brexit: Implications to UK-Malaysia and UK-Asean Relations” last week at the Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR), the training arm of the Foreign Ministry.
The lecture, the first in the Ambassador Lecture Series for the year, dwelt on a wide range of issues of interest to Malaysians.
Treadell took questions from the audience concerning the future of the relations post-Brexit between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, the existing and future state of relations between Malaysia and the UK and the nature of relations between the UK and Asean.
Throughout her lecture and in her responses to the questions posed, the high commissioner succeeded in dispelling the existing and widespread notion that the UK’s long-standing presence in the region, beginning in the mid-19th century, had contributed to the “wallpaper” image for the country among the governments and the people.
At the end, with her honest and able use of facts and figures, the high commissioner was able to set up a good rapport with those present.
The highlights of the high commissioner’s lecture are:
FIRST, the UK is expected to increase its diplomatic, economic and security cooperation in Commonwealth countries that have not got the British presence.
In the regional security area, the Five-Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA), a security organisation founded in 1971 by the UK together with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, will be enhanced with the participation of other countries in the region, such as Indonesia.
The hope is that this will also extend the level of regional cooperation among the countries beyond FPDA, taking into consideration the growing regional security-threat.
SECOND, while pushing forward with the existing excellent relations between Malaysia and the UK, further efforts will focus on expanding the cooperation in education, research and technology development, scientific and technical cooperation.
At the governmental level, exchanges of visits at the ministerial level will be increased.
On relations with Asean, more can be expected in the coming years from the UK in its search for a model of relations based on the experience of Asean’s dialogue partners.
The UK is also considering a preferential trading arrangement with Asean along the lines of the European Customs Union once the UK ceases to be a European Union member.
Given the assurances made by Treadell on the need to go for continuity, mutual cooperation in the areas discussed above will put the post-Brexit fears of countries that have maintained good relations with the UK to rest, and the future will remain promising and advantageous to all countries in the longer term.
Retired Malaysian ambassador