Caribbean weighs in on BREXIT implications

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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has begun responding to the news that Britain has voted to leave the European Union (EU). On Friday 52 per cent of voters in a referendum in Britain opted out of remaining in the 28-member grouping. Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled his intention to resign.

The implications are far-reaching globally, with serious consequences for financial markets, investment, trade and overseas development assistant. The pound sterling has dropped to its lowest level in 30 years.

At least one CARICOM Prime Minister has spoken so far about the fallout from the vote.

Dominica Prime Minister, the Hon, Roosevelt Skerrit told a radio station in his homeland that he was shocked at the move.

“It’s a major shockwave, it’s a major shock that has hit the world and it has been felt in Dominica from last night,”the Dominica News Online outfit quoted the Prime Minister as saying in a live interview on Kairi FM on Friday morning.

Prime Minister Skerrit said the repercussions would be felt almost immediately in Dominica since the EU would lose a large chunk of its budget and it would have to restructure its whole approach to financing and development assistance.

“The decision to leave the EU is going to have major, major impact to developing economies like ours which rely heavily on development assistance from the EU,” he stated, adding that this is due to the fact that the priorities and the focus of the EU are going to change to see how it restructures without Britain.

“So the focus now will be within the EU rather than outside the EU and matters relating to the relationship of the EU with the rest of the developing world, Dominica included,” the Prime Minister said.

He pointed out that Dominica had two or three outstanding packages of “significant sums” from the EU.

“One of which is about 8.9-millions euros which we have been promised from the EU as the result of Tropical Storm Erika and the cabinet had decided that that 8.9-millio euros would be used exclusively to continue improving farm access roads in Dominica,” he explained.

“…we have an existing contract of over $22-million or so for 10 or 12 feeder roads and the other feeder roads that were not captured in this financing, the cabinet has decided that we would use the 8.9-million euros to continue and to complete the rehabilitation of all feeder roads across Dominica and there are also other budget support that are outstanding from the EU.”

Other Regional voices have expressed concerns over the vote.

Lecturer in political science and international relations Dr Kristina Hinds-Harrison told Barbados TODAY a vote which favoured Britain severing ties with the 28-nation bloc would have serious implications for Barbados and other CARICOM countries that have signed on to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which governs trade with the EU.

“This agreement would, in some ways, be a lot less meaningful because the major trade partner for the English speaking Caribbean countries would no longer be a member of the EU. So this kind of relationship would have to be renegotiated or negotiated outside of the context of the EU and that certainly is an inconvenience,” she said.

She added that Britain’s exit would also lead to uncertainty on other issues, including immigration, development funding and trade for Barbados and the Region.

“When I am talking about trade, I don’t mean just trade in goods, but also trade in services, the ability for people to provide services. These things will have to be renegotiated.”

The negative impact on trade and investment flows was also explored by Executive Director of the Caribbean Council, David Jessop, who also zoned in on what the vote meant for the CARIFORUM EPA.

“The Caribbean will be affected in a number of ways. These include a possible negative impact on trade and development flows; a diminution in the region’s ability to influence thinking on its policy concerns in Europe; a specific range of problems for the UK’s overseas territories in the region; and a long period of uncertainty as Britain’s foreign, trade and development policy is reoriented.

“British withdrawal could also have wider consequences, for example for Europe’s future relationship with the African Caribbean and Pacific grouping of states, and accelerate the EU’s general trend towards dialogue with Latin America and the Caribbean as a single region, rather than two distinct blocs,” Mr Jessop said in a column in the Antillean Media Group.

Over in Trinidad and Tobago, economist Indera Sagewan-Alli pondered on the consequences for CARICOM.

“What is the future of the EU now given that a major player like the UK has pulled out of it? With CARICOM Caribbean Community), we have always look at the EU as a flagbearer for union and if they have not been able to make it work, what is the implication for a CARICOM going forward . Is it that we will see a further disintegration towards a more single union in CARICOM?”

While Jamaica congratulated the United Kingdom on a free and fair referendum, Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith it acknowledged that some arrangements may change.

“Jamaica and the UK share a strong historical bond of friendship and cooperation, at the bilateral level and in other spheres of engagement. Yesterday’s vote to leave the EU means that the UK will eventually cease to be part of the relevant arrangements that govern Jamaica-EU relations, including the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.

“Notwithstanding, we trust that renewed efforts will be made to strengthen and expand the Jamaica-UK partnership in all areas, not least in relation to trade, investment and development cooperation,” the Minister said in a statement.

Guyana was not anticipating any immediate impacts from the vote. Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge told the Demerara Waves online news site that there was not likely to be any adverse short-term consequence by way of a curtailing of resource flows or curtailment of access of commodities into the EU “whatever may be the case in relation to Britain.

In an interview with the CARICOM Secretariat earlier this week, Minister Greenidge had indicated that the outcome of the referendum threatened a degree of uncertainty, if not destabilisation in the trade and political relationships between the Region and its European partners. Noting that the EU and its European Development Fund (EDF) was the major source of concessionary grant financing for the Region, Minister Greenidge said what was decided about the future of the relations between the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping and the EU would be very critical.

Britain joined the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973. In a 1975 referendum, more than 67 percent voted to remain.

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