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Bruce Golding | How will Brexit affect us?

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Bruce Golding

The full implications of the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union (EU) for CARICOM and Jamaica, in particular, cannot yet be known. Much will depend on the terms of the disengagement that are still to be negotiated and how the UK will recalibrate its foreign and trade policies. How these negotiations proceed will determine the time frame within the two-year window for us to reposition ourselves.

An immediate concern will be the loss of the UK in the councils of Europe where it has been our strongest advocate. Our historical relationship with the other EU members is very shallow, and there is little reason to expect that they will be sympathetic to the plight of far-removed, small island developing states like us - too small to matter in the scheme of things and so vulnerable to exogenous shocks and natural disasters, which make our development process akin to a ludo game.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific forum that is still critical to CARICOM's traditional exports, especially in terms of weaning ourselves from uncompetitive pursuits, is now in jeopardy. The UK is unlikely to be willing to shoulder that burden alone.

 

NOT A MAJOR TRADING PARTNER

The UK is not our major trading partner, accounting for only 10 per cent of our export trade. Small as it is, it is covered by the European Partnership Agreement negotiated in 2007 between Cariforum and the EU. We may have to negotiate a new trade agreement with the UK, either bilaterally or through Cariforum, and there is no certainty that we would secure the asymmetries and transitional provisions that we enjoy under THE EPA, unless the UK seeks to retain a customs union-type relationship with the EU. Uncertainties will also surround development assistance from the EU, on which our budget depends so heavily.

The UK will face other problems. Scotland and Northern Ireland are strongly pro-EU and may very well seek to secede from the UK and become independent members of the EU, reducing the size of the UK market. The EU itself may face survival challenges since Euroscepticism does not reside only in the UK.

Strong movements against EU membership exist in Denmark, Finland and Poland, and latent sentiments in other European countries are likely to be kindled by Brexit. We must remember that significant European countries like Norway, Switzerland and Iceland chose not to become members of the EU.

There are two issues in particular that have tested the mettle of the EU and found it wanting: The global financial crisis eight years ago that rattled its architecture and the migration crisis sparked mainly by the instability in the Middle East. These have nothing to do with Jamaica and the Caribbean. Their consequences are what affect us and what we have to worry about.

- Bruce Golding is a former prime minister. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.