With the world still reeling after the revolutionary withdrawal of the United Kingdom from one of the largest politico-economic blocs – the European Union, Member States of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) are being urged to stand together.
Caricom Deputy Secretary General, Dr Manorma Soeknandan declared that Caricom should not go through the recent Brexit (British exit) experience, which has left millions of people worldwide facing major economic and political uncertainty.
She was at the time speaking at the opening ceremony of a Regional Technical Meeting on the implementation of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) CSME and Economic Integration Programme.
Dr Soeknandan urged all Caricom members to stand in integration and be committed together, and to struggle and achieve together.
“Caricom has challenges, hurdles…together putting our shoulders under those will only make us stronger…losing one is not the answer,” she said, as she expressed hope that Caricom would never have to deal with what the EU was currently undergoing.
In this regard, the Caricom Deputy Secretary General underscored the importance of regional integration and the need for technical meetings to resolve pertinent issues.
Also delivering his remarks at the event was Ambassador Mikael Barfod, the Head of the Delegation of the EU to the Eastern Caribbean Countries (OECS) and Caricom/CARIFORUM, who noted that the Brexit could have consequences for the Caribbean.
He explained that some Caricom countries may have to enter into renegotiations of trade deals with the UK as a result of Brexit.
Furthermore, the Ambassador stressed that the challenges related to regional integration were well worth taking, even though at times integration had a gloomy reputation.
Already, authoritative voices in Jamaica placed on their national agenda the question of whether their country should follow the example of Britain, the former “Mother Country”, and leave Caricom.
In fact, the former Foreign Affairs Minister in Jamaica, Oswald Harding, is insisting that the Jamaican Government should follow the UK’s example and hold a referendum on whether Jamaica should remain in Caricom.
Several Member States have publicly subscribed to the view that the institution has been incapable of addressing the challenges facing the Caribbean.
With the Caricom Summit to be hosted in Guyana next month, the Guyana Government has not pronounced on whether or not it would consider exiting Caricom.
Locally, discussions have commenced on whether Brexit could open an opportunity for the sugar industry to flourish.
Guyana’s sugar, which had been shipped to Britain to the Tate & Lyle Sugar (TLS) on the Thames for refining, was incorporated into the EU regime in 1973 and modified accordingly in the following years.
Cane sugar has been treated as a stepchild in the EU which pushes beet sugar and TLS has seen its refineries gradually decrease from six to one. Because beet farming in Britain has never been on a scale, as say France and Germany British farmers never received subsidies on the scale of their European counterparts.
In 2012, TLS launched a “Save our Sugar” campaign and asserted, “If current and proposed EU policies continue to unfairly restrict access to raw sugar, cane refiners will not survive as part of the supply mix in Europe’s sugar sector”.
TLS has been leading the charge for renegotiation of cane sugar trade arrangements before the old arrangement expires in 2017. It can be a potent ally for countries such as Guyana.
In the next two years, according to Article 50 of the EU Charter, Britain and the EU will be negotiating the terms of the former’s exit. The EU’s entire sugar regime, which addresses three main areas: quota management, a reference price and a minimum guaranteed price to growers, and trade measures, will have to be replaced by Britain with a new regime.