Caribbean countries should not expect special deals or preferences from the European Union (EU) if Britain is not there to argue on their behalf, says Prof W Andy Knight.
According to Knight, professor of International Relations at the University of Alberta, Canada, and former director of the Institute of International Relations, UWI, St Augustine, now that the majority of British voters have decided that their country should "leave" the EU, it is likely to impact negatively on the Economic Partnership Agreement between Cariforum (Caricom plus the Dominican Republic) and the EU?
In an interview with journalist TONY FRASER, Knight said he sees fallouts in trade and tourism. He said Caricom, representing the interests of its member states, will have to be bold and proactive in recalibrating the relationship between the Caribbean and the UK.
Now that the majority of British voters have decided that their country should "leave" the European Union, is that likely to impact negatively on the Economic Partnership Agreement between Cariforum and the EU?
Yes, that can negatively erode the EPA. So one can expect that the preferential deals with respect to trade and commercial interests which the UK was able to negotiate for the Caribbean within the EU will now have to be reexamined by the EU. This is not to say that the EU will necessarily eliminate those preferential treatments. But, let's be realistic, the 27-member countries of the EU have very little in the way of a relationship with the English-speaking Caribbean. So without Britain present to argue on their behalf, Caribbean countries should not expect special deals or preferences coming to them from the EU minus Britain.
How does Caricom seek to reorganise its relationship with a Britain not being part of the EU?
It seems to me that Caricom, representing the interests of its Caribbean member states, will have to be bold and proactive in recalibration of the relationship between the Caribbean and the UK. The UK, on the other hand, may very well have to engage in a series of difficult bilateral trade negotiations with the countries of the Caribbean.
But, the reality is that trade negotiators in the Caribbean are not always well trained in the art of negotiations. The region should ensure that their chief trade negotiators are well trained for the task. This elevates the relevance of the Diplomatic Academy of the Caribbean. Do you anticipate an immediate negative impact on the Caribbean because of Brexit?
I see potential problems for tourism in the Caribbean, especially in Barbados. One of the first signs that the Brexit result has revealed is the downward slide of the sterling. On Black Friday, the pound fell to its lowest level in 30 years. A weak pound will have an impact on the ability of Brits to take holidays in the Caribbean and to invest in vacation properties in the region. In 2015 there were about 1.5 million UK visitors to the Caribbean. In Barbados, in particular, British nationals are important source of real estate foreign direct investment. If these Brits are faced with a weak sterling, then they may not take vacations in Barbados and other Caribbean countries.
What of the fate of Caribbean immigrants in Britain and those who may want to go to Britain in the future, will they benefit or suffer because of the Brexit vote?
My big concern with the Leave campaign was how their leadership (Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and Nigel Farage) utilised fear of immigrants to convince Brits to say no to the EU.
This bigoted and xenophobic rhetoric could have implications for how Caribbean people are treated if they want to go to Britain or reunite with family members in that country.
The far-right voices of intolerance and racism trumped the middle of the road voices of tolerance and the embrace of the "other". Unless these potential leaders tone down their rhetoric the less tolerant members of British society might harass Caribbean individuals in the country, or block those Caribbean people who are trying to migrate to the UK.
Can the drop out from the EU have a domino effect in Caricom and can be a blow to regionalisation and globalisation. For instance, can one of the big Caricom member states follow the example of the majority of British voters?
Of course, now that the Leave campaign in Britain has been successful, one has to be concerned about copycat forces not only in Europe but also in the Caribbean. This result on Black Friday set back the integration projects around the globe. We know how difficult it has been to have a truly integrated Caribbean. Well, this Brexit result may inspire countries like T&T to leave the Caribbean Single Market Economy (CSME). However, if the consequences for Britain's exit from EU are noticeably severe, then countries might be less willing to withdraw from large trade blocs. Regional integration is not a foregone conclusion. I think that Brexit will cause countries that have more or less succumbed to the conclusion that "there is no alternative" to the globalisation to begin to question that premise. If individuals cannot see the benefits of integration, then they will begin to think about ways of getting out of integrated arrangements.
Can the Republican presumptive candidate, the seemingly irrepressible Donald Trump, whose campaign has been about separation, draw energy and inspiration from Brexit with him possibly gaining traction in the US presidential campaign?
Already Trump is saying that he sees parallels between what happened in Britain on Thursday/Friday and what is going on in the US. He seems to believe that Brexit will somehow help him gain momentum in his campaign to be President of the United States. But if Americans consider the serious fallout that the results of the British referendum will bring, then they might be more reluctant to support the xenophobic and bigoted candidate in November.
There is no question that some of the anti-establishment sentiments in both Britain and the US are similar. The older generation, and the white individuals from rural areas who are afraid of change and afraid of "foreigners" might be tempted to support Trump. But they should pay heed to the many people now coming forward in the UK to express buyers remorse.
I think that many Brits just wanted to send a message to the British Government (and to the EU) that they were fed up in being taken for granted; they could not see the benefits of globalisation and European integration.
All they could see was that they were falling further and further behind financially while immigrants seem to be benefitting from the social, political and economic benefits that accrued for globalisation. Those Americans that think that way will most likely support Trump, unless Hillary Clinton can convince them of the uncertainty that will come with a Trump presidency and of the damage that he can do not only domestically but also globally.