Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Cariforum stand to benefit from more British and European Union aid, when Brexit takes place. These assurances were given by EU parliamentary representatives David Martin and Boleslaw Piecha after the end of a EU-Cariforum Parliamentary Committee meeting at the Hyatt Regency, in Port of Spain. Brexit is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU. Cariforum comprises 15 Caricom member states and the Dominican Republic.
Martin remarked that as a British parliamentarian, Brexit, “has a most immediate effect on me.” However he said it is unlikely in the foreseeable future that Brexit would have a negative effect on the Caribbean. While there is some fear in the Caribbean that the region would lose an advocate in the European structure when Brexit happens, Martin said, “The danger of that is a little bit overstated.” He added, “My feeling is the EU is absolutely committed to the Caribbean with or without the UK.”
Martin said the EU remains a vital market for Caribbean countries. Given the historical ties between the UK and the Caribbean, Martin said it is possible that British aid to the region could increase after Brexit. He explained that the UK’s aid budget is approximately 0.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. Martin said the money the UK spends through the EU, “is kept in that 0.07 percent.”
Martin opined that, “if we are no longer in the EU. that money we spent in the EU will be spent directly by the UK.” He reiterated, “It is even possible there might be an increase and not decrease after we depart the EU.” Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said discussions regarding the post-Brexit future for Cariforum have already started. She disclosed there was a meeting in London in March and other meetings are planned. Gopee-Scoon expected these discussions to be concluded before March 2019, when Brexit is estimated to happen. She did not foresee Brexit negatively affecting the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and Cariforum. “The comfort that we had is that, there will be a roll-over of all of the benefits that we have enjoyed under the EPA,” Gopee-Scoon said. The minister said commitments were given by EU and Cariforum representatives to work towards the implementation of the EPA. Gopee-Scoon said Cariforum was seeking special consideration from the EU with respect to trading services.
Piecha observed that Brexit, “is a certain problem in our policy.” He said, “The future for Europe is quite different. “However he agreed with Martin that the EU remains committed to strengthening its ties with Cariforum. Piecha said the EU wants to move away from the donor-recipient model and have more partnerships with Cariforum member states. He said trading services and cultural exchanges are two possible areas where such partnerships could be fostered.
Gopee-Scoon was confident that progress made at the two day committee meeting would be advanced at the Seventh Meeting of the Cariforum-EU Trade and Development Committee and the Fourth Meeting of the Joint Cariforum-EU Council. These meetings take place on November 15 and 17, respectively, in Brussels, Belgium.