Event Summary: UK-Latin America Engagement Post-Brexit

Revitalising UK-Latin America Engagement Post-Brexit

On 19th September, The British Foreign Policy Group co-hosted the Revitalising UK-Latin America Engagement Post-Brexit event in partnership with British Expertise International. This event was sponsored by Anglo American. Two sets of panellists from the private, diplomatic, and education sectors were invited to share their views on how the UK could build upon the commitments from the 2010 Canning Agenda to form long term sustainable partnerships within the region post Brexit on trade, development, security and more.


The first panel covered the theme of prosperity looking at ways in which the UK could increase trade and investment into Latin America post Brexit. This panel consisted of Anglo American’s head of government relations Richard Morgan, The Department of International Trade’s Oliver Griffiths, and Ana Loreto Vasquez from Arup. Panellists examined the impact of the Canning Agenda, and stressed the UK should do more to support businesses to maximise investment into the region post Brexit. One way in which this could be achieved would be through large businesses doing more to encourage high-level visits to Latin America.

Panellists collectively agreed that the UK should take a holistic approach towards mitigating existing tensions and risks around trade and investment by working closely with governments, businesses, and local community members. The panel agreed that if the UK is to revive its relationship with Latin American countries post Brexit, then it should work towards developing greater cultural interchange so that British expertise can be utilised in the region to enhance prosperity for both the UK and South American countries.

Soft power and diplomacy:

The second panel looked at how the UK could utilise its soft power and its diplomatic capabilities to strengthen its relationship with Latin America. The Argentine ambassador to the UK, His Excellency Mr Renato Carlos Sersale di Cerisano, was joined by the Foreign Commonwealth Office’s Head of Latin American department Nigel Baker OBE, foreign policy and diplomacy lecturer at Lancaster University  Dr Thomas Mills, and President of the Edinburgh Latin American forum Carolina Araujo. The panellists examined how the UK could work around the challenges caused by the relative lack of interest it has shown to the region since the 2nd world war.

It was suggested by some speakers that the UK should do more to prioritise its commitment to human rights in Latin America as part of it focus on championing the rules based international system. In addition to this the UK should work with Latin American countries to tackle key non-traditional security threats such as climate change and migration. One overlooked way in which the UK could engage with Latin America post Brexit, would be through mobilising the growing Latin American diaspora community in the UK. Panellists suggested that the UK’s commitment to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals will play a fundamental role in helping it to work with young Latin Americans in the UK to build relations with the region. It was also suggested that by focusing on the role of education, and alleviating barriers for Latin American students to study in the UK this could increase the UK’s soft power, in turn strengthening ties between the UK and South American countries. The idea of thinking about how Chevening scholarships or similar might focus on equipping students with trade skills was also discussed in relation to strengthening UK trade links with South American countries post Brexit.

Moving on from the Canning Agenda, there was a strong consensus that the UK focused too narrowly on its short term economic interest and in doing so it had failed to establish long lasting strategic ties with the region. As such the UK should do more to invest in arranging frequent visits to Latin American countries to increase its presence within the region and strengthen diplomatic ties – which will be critical for successful relations with South American countries post Brexit.

Ahead of the prime ministers visit to the region for the G20 summit, there is a sense of optimism that the UK could revive its relationship with Latin America and work closely on a range of topics that would result in mutually beneficial partnerships for the UK and South American countries.

A more detailed report, including policy suggestions will be published ahead of that G20 visit.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the BFPG. The BFPG is an independent not for profit organisation that encourages constructive, informed and considered opinions without taking an institutional position on any issue.
BFPG Admin