Barbados should seek to diversify its tourism and other business relations away from the United Kingdom (UK) and pursue the Latin American market because current Brexit negotiations spell economic uncertainty for the island, leading economist Andrew Rose has advised.
Britain, the largest source market for tourists to Barbados, has been in talks on immigration, finance and trade with the European Union (EU) as London prepares to quit the 28-member political and economic grouping in March next year.
Rose, the featured distinguished visiting fellow to the Central Bank of Barbados’ 5th Caribbean economic forum, said last night the 2019 deadline for an end to the talks would likely elapse without agreement, and negotiations could go on for more than a decade.
While this is happening, he said, countries like Barbados with strong economic ties to Britain will suffer.
“I can’t imagine that we’ll see any serious negotiations concluded for Brexit over the foreseeable future. This is going to lead to tremendous uncertainty to anything that is related to British commerce,” Rose, a professor at University of California Berkeley, said in the Courtney Blackman Grand Salle of the Central Bank.
“Certainly, Barbados is very seriously affected because the UK sends lots of tourists down here and they’re involved in lots of other businesses directly. That’s not going to be good news for the countries in the Caribbean that do lots of business with the UK,” he added.
Barbados received 222, 322 tourists from Britain last year, out of a record 666,441 stay-over visitors.
However, Rose said it was time for the island to take another look at the level of attention placed on the UK, and to focus on southern markets.
“If I were in charge . . . I would say diversification away from the UK is a good idea, and Latin America seems to be the most obvious choice for the countries of the Caribbean,” he said.
Despite his forecast of hard times triggered by Brexit, Rose said the grinding and prolonged talks between Britain and the EU could still yield positive results for the region.
“In some sense you want the Brexit negotiations to be tough because Barbados and none of the Caribbean countries are at all directly affected. So you want the UK to turn more away from the European Union towards other countries with which it engages in commerce,” he stated, even as he reiterated that “anything that adversely affects UK is going to be bad for anyone doing business with them”.