Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has said that the Caribbean will have to wait and see whether the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) will have any major impact on the region.
Fifty-two percent of voters were in favour of leaving the EU while 48 percent voted to remain in Thursday’s referendum.
Stuart, who expressed surprise at the decision, said he does not think that the region should become “too anxious” because the dismantling process will take about two years.
“In the short term I do not think so, but clearly, given the close relationship between Barbados and the United Kingdom, our heavy dependence on British tourism, and the fact that we have an international business sector that benefits from British investment as well, we have to wait and see what will happen over the medium to long-term,” he said.
Stuart acknowledged that there would be some currency shocks, but stressed that once those had passed the pound would regain its place.
“I think we have to monitor the situation and if we are required as a result of reverberations felt here in Barbados to make any adjustments and to adapt to any new realities, we should stand ready to do so. But it is not an occurrence which we can afford to ignore.
“Britain is still a major power in the world and the bilateral relationship is a very strong one, and we therefore have to monitor any potential changes.”
Stuart noted that the UK had been a part of the European Union for 43 years, and therefore one would have thought that the British would have found it difficult to make a decision to sever those ties. He stated, however, that the decision had been taken and one had to adjust to that new reality.
He added that with the presence of the United Kingdom in the European Union, Caribbean officials were certain that on critical issues they would have a voice on which this region could rely.
“To the extent that they are not going to be at the table in the European Union that voice will be missing, although I do not envisage that because the United Kingdom is disengaging from the European Union, that the disengagement will be such that they will have nothing to do with the European Union at all…,” he ssaid.
The Prime Minister added that the Caribean also had its own experiences with referenda and integration movements. He recalled 1962 when the 10-member West Indies Federation was dismantled after a referendum held in Jamaica.