A self-inflicted wound of political and economic proportions that will impact the Caribbean.
This is how political scientist Peter Wickham is describing yesterday’s vote by Britons to leave the European Union.
Wickham pointed to the immediate reaction from global markets to news of the ‘Brexit’ vote, with the drop in value of the sterling and market uncertainty, predicting that the economic turmoil in the UK would certainly impact on Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean, given the region’s historic ties to Britain and the fact that it is also a major tourist market.
“The pound has tumbled overnight and then we are told that there will be an austerity budget that will be imposed to pay for this exit [from] Europe, which is going to be costly. And against the background of all of that I can only see one outcome, which is that there’s likely to be a recession in the United Kingdom.
“The last time we had a recession in the United Kingdom it sparked off a recession in the Caribbean because that’s one of our major tourist markets. So it cannot be good for tourism . . . in Barbados and all the other islands.
“We depend heavily on the United Kingdom and I think [with] an economy under pressure, the last thing that people will want to do is to spend a holiday in Barbados,” Wickham told Barbados TODAY in a Skype interview.
The political scientist said it was difficult to comprehend why the British would wish to leave a union which was beneficial to them, predicting that those who thought they could get a better deal from Brussels were in for a surprise.
“I get the impression that some of the Brexiters were xenophobic and there were other Brexiters that just were voting for it because they wanted to send a signal to Brussels [headquarters of the European Union] or Strasbourg [the official seat of the European Parliament] about the better deal that they wanted. The reality of that is now that the vote has been lost [by the Remain campaign] and the instruction is that they have to leave, the deal for Britain will be far worse,” he said.
Meanwhile representatives of the UK and the EU moved quickly today to reassure Barbados and the Caribbean that their relationship with the region remained intact.
The British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Victoria Dean stressed that there would be no sudden changes as a result of the Brexit vote.
Dean said in a statement that “Britain remains open for business and continues to attach huge importance to its relationships with and across the Caribbean”.
Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Ambassador Mikael Barfod also said there was no need for alarm.
He said while there will be some fallout, it was too early to tell what the consequences would be.
“We do not know what the consequences will be as yet, but there will be some consequences in the long run. If the UK is no longer a part of the European Union, the Caribbean that trades a lot with the UK will now have to make alternative arrangements to re-enter into new negotiations. But we do not know how long it will take before the negotiations between the UK and the EU have been completed,” Barfod told Barbados TODAY.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Caribbean Community Secretariat Regional Technical Meeting on the implementation of the 10th European Development Fund, Barfod advised against panic.
“Take one step at a time. Perhaps they are looking at the financial markets. Just let’s see what happens one step at a time. It was expected that there would be turmoil, but it is also expected that some of it would probably calm down again.
“We have to wait and see what the negotiations bring, what sort of associations the UK would have with the EU. It could be quite close. We do not know the extent of this yet, it depends on the UK and the 27 remaining EU member of states. I cannot predict what the results would be like,” Barfod stressed.
Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator Darcy Boyce told Barbados TODAY he shared the ambassador’s sentiments that the region should monitor the outcome of negotiations between the UK and the EU.