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Brexit no problem for Jamaica, says UK high commissioner

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 20, 2019

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British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Anwar Ahmad is seeking to allay fears that the decision of the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) on October 31, a move dubbed Brexit, could hurt Jamaica.

Ahmad yesterday told journalists that the UK is committed to Jamaica and the region and has recently completed, and adopted, a strategy for the Caribbean, including Bermuda, which the entire British Government will use to inform its interactions with governments in the region up to 2025.

Against that background, Ahmad pointed to measures already agreed which are designed to ensure a smooth transition for the region whether it is a deal or no-deal, Brexit.

“With the whole Brexit situation we have successfully negotiated, with CARIFORUM, a deal which takes the economic partnership agreement which the EU currently has with CARIFORUM, and on the day we leave it will be activated seamlessly,” declared Ahmad.

He noted that recently there was mention in the local media of an annual general meeting of a firm which said it might have to find new markets because of Brexit.

“I was able to talk to members of the board of that company and say to them that it is a seamless transition from day one and thereafter it can only be improved upon because it will be discussions between the UK and the Caribbean, not 27 other countries,” added Ahmad.

The high commissioner argued that with the trade agreement already signed the UK has given itself an insurance policy which will ensure that there is no change, in terms of commercial transactions with the region after Brexit, while any agreement in place with the EU will continue.

“Day one, there is no change in the aid profile of the EU here because we are not removing our money [from the EU] on day one,” said Ahmad.

“So for a Jamaican, what would be the effect on day one? Of course, every country is affected by uncertainty and change, so if the currencies are wobbling around, if the investment mood is one where there is wait-and-see, then yes, it is not good for anybody,” added Ahmad as he argued that the British Government has already taken steps to prevent any fallout.

Ahmad noted that the British Government has already committed 400 million for multi-country programmes in the region with more than 100 million more to be committed shortly.

Of the total amount, 34.2 million is allocated for the Conflict Stability and Security Fund.

“So it is not just about the old language of how much more can the UK sell to Jamaica and how much Jamaican investment can we attract to the UK. We are happy to talk about the 55-million investment we are making in agriculture here, as part of our aid project.

“What agricultural products can be sold in the UK in large quantities in new markets or as processed goods?… What help do Jamaican farmers or companies need to be export-ready? Ahmad said, adding that the UK wants to help JAMPRO increase investments in Jamaica and not just by British companies.

But he warned that despite the push for increased trade the UK would not be relaxing its phytosanitary requirements to allow the importation of products that the EU would be uncomfortable with, but it would be willing to engage in discussions with Jamaica on this and other issues post-Brexit.


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