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KUALA LUMPUR: Now that Brexit is finally done, the UK should refocus its economic cooperation not only with the US but also with the myriad economies within the Commonwealth, including Malaysia, Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said.

“For a start, trade and investments with Commonwealth members such as Malaysia should be intensified, with a view towards eventually forming a free-trade area for the whole of the Commonwealth, focusing on economic cooperation and not political centralisation, as the Brexit lesson has vividly demonstrated,” he told Bernama TV in an email interview.

Dr Oh, who is an international relations expert, was asked about Brexit, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 52 per cent of those who tuned out voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country’s withdrawal in March 2017, thus began the arduous Brexit process.

The UK finally left the European Union (EU) on Friday, thus ending 47 years of membership.

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Dr Oh said the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC) back in the 1970s, mainly with the expectations that it would primarily enhance economic cooperation among European countries.

He said over the years, however, the notion of all EU member states forming an “ever closer union” took hold, with chunks of national sovereignty having been surrendered to a centralised and somewhat remote bureaucracy in Brussels.

“The UK went along with this power-pooling trend only reluctantly, having for examples opted out of both the Eurozone and the Schengen (open border) treaty.

“So, it did not come as a total surprise that the British electorate voted for Brexit, albeit narrowly. And the latest electoral victory by Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be viewed as the British voters reaffirming their Brexit choice,” Dr Oh said.

He said the EU frowned upon Brexit primarily because it could serve as a significant precedent for quite a few other member states whose peoples or governments were also getting increasingly antagonistic with Brussels and toying with the idea of their own exit.

Going forward, Dr Oh said Brexit could embolden the exit sentiments in quite a number of major and minor economies in the EU, with the block thus having to come to terms with its existential predicaments.

By having joined the EU nearly half a century ago, the UK might be said to have largely abdicated its leadership among the nations under the British Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth, a 53-country network of mostly former British colonies, came into being in 1949, with the purpose of advancing international cooperation, economics, social development, and human rights in member countries. Decisions of the various Commonwealth councils are non-binding. – Bernama