Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler says there’s no need for Barbadians to panic over the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union (EU).
“We ought not to run around like headless chickens snatching, sneering or grabbing at every other type of negative potential fallout from the exit of the UK from the European Union,” said Sinckler, who also emphasized that “before there was the European Union there was a Great Britain”.
Addressing the opening of the Domestic Financial Institutions conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, he pointed out that “Britain is one of, if not our greatest partner internationally.
“We have strong, resolute, historical links with the UK and long may that continue. What we do is to position ourselves. As we have said many years ago, . . . we are friends of all and satellites of none, so we will work with the UK, in or out of the European Union, and do so to the eternal benefit of people on both sides of the Atlantic because that has been our history,” he stressed.
Noting that Barbados was a preferred destination for British travelers, as well as those seeking a second home abroad, Sinckler said the two countries also shared strong social and cultural ties and worked closely with each other in relation to national security issues.
“Therefore, I think we ought not to get ourselves overly excited about what is going to happen with the UK and Brexit,” he told the gathering, adding that he expected the pound sterling to regain its strength once the dust was settled.
“So from the level of the Government we are keeping our eyes on it, we are sensitive to the issues, but we are not getting overly excited and worried about what will take place,” the Minister of Finance said.
His comments came against the backdrop of a warning issued by former Prime Minister Owen Arthur here last week that there was the possibility of the EU renegotiating a new trade agreement with CARIFORUM in the wake of the decision taken by Britons to leave the 28-member politico-economic union.
“The Caribbean relationship with the EU and the UK under EPA [Economic Partnership Agreement] entails more than just a trade regime. It also includes a programme and many instruments of development, which are not subject to WTO [World Trade Organization rules], which can be varied at the discretion of the United Kingdom and the EU,” said Arthur during a University of the West Indies-sponsored panel discussion on Brexit.
However, during a similar discussion yesterday, Deputy High Commissioner at the British High Commission Colin Dick gave the assurance that the UK would continue to work with its global partners, including those in the Caribbean.
Dick, who was part of a panel discussing the topic, Brexit: What’s There To Know?, said while he could not confirm how the UK’s June 23 referendum would affect trade between the UK and the Caribbean, he was positive “the UK would want to maintain the strongest possible ties with the Caribbean.
“It is amongst the countries of the Caribbean that we find partners, friends, allies, like-minded people with a shared view and shared values, so the Caribbean absolutely matters to the UK. We have deep historic links, our friendship is strong and enduring and that will be the case going forward,” the British spokesman said.
“There will be no initial changes to the way that we trade with countries, so while the UK is a member of the EU, all of our rights and obligations will continue to apply, including within the Economic Partnership Agreement and other [future] plans for economic support,” he further assured.
However, while acknowledging that the UK’s exit from the EU was sure to have some sort of impact, Dick said the UK would remain “an advocate for the Caribbean” within Europe.
And in response to worries about tourism, Dick said there could be “a temporary period of re-adjustment”.
“I think, though, the UK economy is fundamentally strong. Secondly, the Caribbean’s tourism product is fundamentally strong. Those two issues do not become any less strong because of the referendum result on June 23,” he said.
“That relationship that British people have with the Caribbean, that is to some extent quite unique and special, will continue and I am confident that those tourism figures, at least in the longer term, wont be adversely affected,” he added.