Sun | Mar 24, 2019

Don't bank on UK deal - Veteran BBC journalist says country should not have any expectation for new trade agreement after Brexit

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2019 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Jonny Dymond, popular British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) presenter.
Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner.
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Contrary to a promise made by United Kingdom (UK) high commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad in 2017, that Brexit will provide an opportunity for both countries to do a lot more business with each other, popular British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) presenter, Jonny Dymond, is advising persons not to get their hopes up.

On March 29, the UK is expected to leave the European Union (EU), even as Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, is busily lobbying Parliament to vote positively on Brexit, instead of choosing no deal.

In a Sunday Gleaner story on November 26, 2017, Ahmad had said "if a Ghanaian yam farmer can sell his produce in the UK, there is no reason why a Jamaican yam farmer can't".

However, in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday at its North Street offices in Kingston, Dymond, who is in Jamaica for tonight's hosting of BBC World Service Radio's World Questions at Spanish Court Hotel, Valencia in St Andrew, said persons should not have any such expectations.

A specially selected panel, which includes Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith, will be on the programme discussing key issues on the minds of Jamaicans.

"If I were waiting for a trade deal with Britain, I wouldn't hold my breath. I wouldn't expect anything to change quickly, simply because every piece of machinery of the British government is straining. It is like a machine running too fast with things popping off and everybody trying to put fuel in. It is really complicated," he stated.

 

UP IN THE AIR

 

"Even if we leave at the end of March, which is the legal date that might be changed, Britain then gets another 21 months of negotiating our own trade deal with the EU. Of course, Britain can negotiate other trade deals at that time, but the effort and energy going into leaving the EU is phenomenal. It is leaving very little time, space or political capital for thinking about how we work with Jamaica. It's very difficult to see beyond the short-term horizon, and that will be the case for the next couple of years."

All in all, Dymond described the state of British politics as delicate, where "everything is up in the air" and they may not see Jamaica as priority, especially since the United States and China are outgunning the UK in its former colony with investments.

"There is the potential to strike a deal between Britain and Jamaica that did not exist whilst we were in the EU, but we will have to see. Remember, the Parliament is debating if they are going to leave the EU with or without a deal. This once very stable and rather predictable democracy, the British system of government, is suddenly under immense strain," he said.

"I think in the next couple of years, the energy is going to be consumed by withdrawing from the EU and establishing a new relationship with the EU rather than thinking quickly about trade deals. We will see how much Jamaica has to gain from it. Jamaica's focus is elsewhere as well. We know it focuses very heavily on American trade; it is part of a big link-up with China as well. Things have changed with Jamaica and Britain over the decade."

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com