Mitchell: Watch and wait on Brexit
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell yesterday said that the decision of the British people to leave the European Union (EU) might mean The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries would have to negotiate directly with Britain if it extracts itself from existing EU agreements.
Mitchell made those observations yesterday at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“In just canvassing across the Caribbean, there is a concern that, with the exit from the EU that the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries will all have to re-engage separately with Great Britain,” he said.
Next week, Prime Minister Perry Christie will lead a delegation to Guyana for the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting. It is expected that “Brexit” will be high on the agenda, according to Mitchell.
He discussed the potential impacts that the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the EU would have on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
“The economic partnership agreement (EPA) is the comprehensive agreement which allows the goods and services from The Bahamas to enter under preferential terms into the EU,” the minister explained.
“With Britain exiting the EU, those would no longer apply in Britain and British markets. So we would want to ensure that our service people and people who trade in goods with the UK are able to continue to have that access with the UK, if that eventually happens.”
The Bahamas does about $30 million worth of business with the UK every year, according to Mitchell.
“Given the analysis that has taken place over the last few days, it is not certain how this is all going to come out,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell indicated that there was a full discussion on the implications of Brexit during the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“I just wanted to calm any sort of concerns or fears that people might have about the impact on our economy, specifically,” he said.
“Obviously, we are watching the wider currents. The fact that there have been some impacts on the currency, the trading inequities in the stock markets.
“All of those do not have an immediate impact on us.”
Mitchell said this is a situation of “watch and wait”.
The minister said the relationship with the UK and the EU remains good.
Mitchell indicated that a stable relationship between the UK and The Bahamas will continue in the near term with “trade, culture and human ties”.
The minister said tourism should not be impacted because Bahamians do not require a visa to travel to the UK.
He pointed out that British Airways is expected to increase the size of its aircraft resulting in more seats on the London to Nassau route.