Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Roseanne Myers is cautioning against inciting panic over Britain’s impending separation from the European Union (EU).
Britons voted in June to leave the 28-member politico-economic union, a decision regional experts said could have implications for the Caribbean’s trading relations with Europe.
Speaking today at a Brexit symposium hosted by the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Myers argued that while the region must prepare for a worst-case scenario, there was no need to incite panic over possible economic fallout.
“We have had a Brexit vote; Brexit has not yet happened and we don’t know . . . whether it will happen or not. Let’s not jump and join the bandwagon and talk about it as if it has happened,” the BHTA chairman and general manager of Atlantis Submarines said.
Myers revealed that contrary to predictions by pundits in the weeks following the Brexit vote, there were no mass cancellations of hotel bookings.
However, she warned that the many predictions of gloom had led to uncertainty, which in turn could cause anxiety.
“Uncertainty is being fuelled and where that is concerned, it would have a serious effect on consumer confidence,” she stressed.
Today’s discussion, which featured several regional opinion shapers, including former Prime Minister Owen Arthur and Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, reaffirmed concerns that when Britain triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the separation process, it would have far reaching implications for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Arthur explained that in many respects the region’s fortunes were inextricably linked to Britain’s prosperity. In addition, he noted the possibility of the EU renegotiating a new trade agreement with CARIFORUM.
“The Caribbean relationship with the EU and the UK under EPA entails more than just a trade regime. It also includes a programme and many instruments of development, which are not subject to WTO [Word Trade Organization rules], which can be varied at the discretion of the United Kingdom and the EU,” Arthur said.
Meantime, while emphasizing that the Caribbean had been resilient in the face of historic challenges outside of its own making, Gonsalves said there were lessons for CARICOM from the Brexit vote, especially as it related to free movement.