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Caribbean Experts Propose Recommendations for Brexit Impact

For Release Upon Receipt - Monday, July 4, 2016

CARICOM Get Ready

Caribbean Experts Propose Recommendations for Brexit Impact at UWI-hosted Symposium

In response to Britain's vote to leave the European Union (EU) popularly referred to as BREXIT, The UWI assembled a group of subject matter experts in a symposium to address how the Caribbean region could be affected and recommendations to chart the way forward. The UWI symposium themed, Brexit Implications for the Caribbean was held at its Regional Headquarters in Jamaica on 29 June, 2016 and was free to the public.

Speaking at the symposium UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles called for CARICOM to move as a matter of urgency to reinvent the scenario post emancipation, which saw Caribbean indigenous people networking freely across the region. He urged the organisation to avoid a ‘wait and see’ approach, and instead, partner with The UWI to establish a task force to research, monitor and report on the developments that will take place over the next two years. “It's important that leaders in government and the private sector have access to factual, detailed information on an ongoing basis in order to guide their thinking and decisions. The days of ad hoc decision making are over. The University is already in the field on every relevant front and can become the agency through which leaders are provided with the information and insights to craft the Caribbean journey through the changing environment.”

According to Sir Hilary, "Britain has always acted deliberately and strategically in its own self-interest.” In his opinion, the BREXIT vote is a threat to the fragile stability the region built over the past years. He noted that even before the BREXIT vote, the EU had graduated most Caribbean countries—with the exception of Haiti—into a mid-income designation level, that “denies us the support we are entitled to. CARICOM should insist that a vulnerability index is used to more accurately gauge the needs of the various countries in the region.”

Speaking directly to the newly-appointed Chair of the CARICOM Review Commission and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Rt. Honourable Bruce Golding, he challenged CARICOM officials, as well-positioned, strategic leaders “to help steer the region on the right path”.

He also recommended that CARICOM set up a Regional Research and Development Fund in order to facilitate the innovation within the private sector required to strengthen entrepreneurship.Commenting on the failure to take advantage of the opportunities of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreements, he noted that the regional economy is at a stage where it can only compete at the level of innovation, and it is failing to do so because of inadequate research and development within production.Vice-Chancellor Beckles underscored that the region competes as commodity producers at the level of price during the 1960s and 1970s, and at the level of quality in the services sector up to 2000, but is now required to compete at the level of innovation and is failing to do so, adding that only an innovation revolution driven by research and development can break through this barrier. He advised CARICOM to strengthen the conversation around and re-negotiate the various agreements that can strengthen and expand the CARIFORUM (EU Economic Partnership Agreement) including pacts negotiated by the African Caribbean, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and Pacific States (ACP) which the Caribbean has not taken full advantage for many years.

Mr Golding who was also a panellist at the UWI symposium offered his own outlook that while the exit by Britain from the EU may have some impact on the Caribbean, he did not think it would reach crisis proportions. He estimated “the British economy will take some blows, possibly even go into recession but I don't think it is contagious.”

Mr Golding admitted that Caribbean trading with Europe has been “at best anaemic” in the recent past, and even then, there has typically been more activity with countries other than Britain. He added, “in any event most of the agreements we have signed are with the EU and not Britain and these should not be adversely affected," noting that new agreements may have to be negotiated with Britain in due course. He insisted however, “These arrangements will not absolve us from the need to fix our own domestic problems. We must first fix CARICOM if we are to fulfil the dreams and the vision of its architects."

Also speaking at the UWI symposium was His Excellency David Fitton, British High Commissioner to Jamaica. He advised that the Caribbean should not adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to BREXIT, although it would take some time for Britain to fully exit the EU. He stated that he did foresee a negative change in the relationship between Europe and the Caribbean as a result of the exit and noted that Britain has been one of the main champions of the Caribbean at the EU and that the region must work very hard to maintain those trade relationships that have benefitted them over several years.

Presenting another perspective, Dr Dana Morris Dixon, Business Development and Research Executive at Jamaica National predicted that BREXIT will have “profound implications for Caribbean businesses”. During her presentation, she noted that immediately following the vote to exit the EU the British pound depreciated by over 10 per cent and plunged to its lowest value in 31 years, and the global stock market was already negatively affected. Dr Dixon said that "BREXIT has caused all of us to look at our investments in sterling and our exposure. We are concerned about remittances, which for Jamaica is approximately 16.7 per cent of our annual GDP and there is a real threat to tourism earnings especially for countries like Barbados which is a prime destination for British tourists.

Dr Damien King, Head of Department of Economics at The UWI Mona Campus served as moderator of the panel discussion at the symposium. He affirmed that BREXIT has implications for the Caribbean in a range of spheres and has to be considered relative to other occurrences in the region, if we are to overcome any threats and challenges resulting from it.

Full video coverage of the symposium is available online.

UWI symposium themed, Brexit Implications for the Caribbean 1-7-4-2016.jpg

Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies (The UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles (2nd right) makes a point at The UWI Symposium on 29 June at The UWI Regional Headquarters, to (l-r) Rt. Honourable Bruce Golding, Chair of the CARICOM Review Commission; H.E. David Fitton, British High Commissioner to Jamaica; Dr Dana Dixon, Executive Business Development & Research, Jamaica National Building Society and Dr Damien King, Co-Executive Director, Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI).










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