As the date for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU), commonly referred to as Brexit, draws nearer, Barbados and other Commonwealth countries have been reassured that current trading arrangements with the EU will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The United Kingdom’s Envoy for the Commonwealth, Philip Parham, made this clear as he addressed a press conference at the British High Commission’s office during a brief stopover in the island this morning.
“We are in the process of rolling over agreements that currently exist between the European Union and other countries, including Commonwealth members, including CARIFORUM, so that the same terms will apply between the UK and those countries once we leave the EU. Our first aim is to ensure we remain on the same footing; then we would want to develop the best and most productive trade relations once we are outside of the European Union.”
Parham said Britain has allocated £500 million to the four main areas the 53-member Commonwealth agreed to focus on at their last conference.
“We concentrated on security, primarily cyber security; prosperity; fairness; and sustainability, and several bodies have been set up across the Commonwealth to cover these matters. In terms of cyber-security, we signed a Cyber Declaration, which is the widest ranging inter-governmental statement on cyber security, and member states agreed to work on improving that. In fact, there will be three regional workshops taking place in Barbados over the next three or four weeks based on raising awareness and increasing capacity so governments can better protect themselves from any such threats,” he said.
Regarding prosperity and fairness, Parham said the aim was to ensure all former and current British colonies which make up the Commonwealth achieve high levels of economic development and are treated fairly when it comes to trade and other global issues.
In terms of sustainability, the UK official said 24 Commonwealth nations had so far joined the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, which is aimed at eliminating plastic waste from the world’s oceans, and he commended Barbados’ efforts so far, despite the fact it had not yet joined the alliance.
“The UK is also working with Caribbean islands to help them map their marine economies so they can develop them in a sustainable and resilient way. In terms of health, we have committed to reducing by 50 per cent the incidence of malaria in the Commonwealth by 2023.”
Parham added that the Commonwealth needed a stronger voice in the international community, especially when it came to global trading decisions that could affect its more vulnerable members.
“We must hear the Commonwealth’s voice more clearly as an advocate for a rules-based international system with the different interests they have, which is being challenged now. We also want to increase and foster practical solidarity so member states support each other better, especially in multilateral arenas. To this end, we will be increasing our financial contributions to our Small States offices based in New York and Geneva, which were established to help our smaller members who cannot effectively represent themselves in big arenas on an individual basis,” he said.
After leaving Barbados, Parham will visit St Lucia to participate in that island’s 40th Anniversary of Independence celebrations.