But a possible delay in the UK leaving the EU could still throw them a lifeline.
South Africa and its neighbouring countries have failed to reach an agreement with the UK so far on a post-Brexit free trade agreement. This means that it will be too late for Parliament to ratify such a deal before it rises this week for the 8 May elections, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Monday.
He nevertheless remained optimistic that a delay in the UK leaving the European Union could provide enough time for SA and the four other Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries -- plus Mozambique -- to iron out the few remaining differences among them to reach an agreement with Britain.
Trade between SACU-Mozambique and Britain is now governed by the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). But when Britain leaves the EU, as it is due to do on March 29, the EPA will no longer apply to UK-SACU-Mozambique trade.
Davies and his regional counterparts held a teleconference on Friday with British trade minister George Hollingberry.
But though the two sides narrowed their differences, they could not quite agree on two issues, Davies said at a press conference in...