A little over a week ago, the United Kingdom Government commenced steps to trigger BREXIT, while here at home Premier of the BVI and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith remains confident ahead of his travel to the United Kingdom (in coming days) that BREXIT will provide new opportunities for the Territory.
Last year it was announced that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union was imminent, and it was noted that the Government intended to invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March 2017, and that negotiations will hopefully begin to discuss the establishment of a relationship with the European Union soon after.
That process commenced on 26 January when ‘The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill’ was introduced to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, by Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis.
In the meantime it has been made crystal clear that Scotland and Northern Ireland are totally against BREXIT and may take steps accordingly.
This EU Exit Bill essentially sets the process in motion as it gives the Prime Minister, Theresa May the power to formally trigger Article 50, which has to move through both the House of Commons and House of Lords before gaining Royal Assent prior to the March 31st deadline.
It was also explained that the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill will go before the introduction of the Great Repeal Bill, which is expected to transpose EU law into UK law to ensure the maximum stability on exit.
As it relates to the Territory’s position, Premier Smith announced in his 16 January Budget address that he sees BREXIT as an opportunity for the BVI to seek a deeper and more meaningful dialogue with the United Kingdom Government.
It was also at that juncture that the Premier announced that he is endeavoring to further the conversation with the Mother Country: “You will recall that my Government requested of the British Government that the BVI be included in the exit negotiations with the EU on those points that directly affect our industries and our future. This, we feel, could set the stage for the deeper levels of dialogue which we seek. In fact, early in February, together with other Overseas Territories leaders, we will continue this important dialogue at a Brexit OT’s Conference in the United Kingdom,” Hon. Smith said.
EXIT IN 2 YEARS OR 5 YEARS? AT WHAT PRICE?
BVI public opinion on BREXIT ranges from total disagreement and great concern to happy Brexiteering. The complexities of trade, the EU budget, international treaties and more mean that the BREXIT itinerary will take very much longer than two or three years years and the instability created will inevitably shake the economy and markets. Late last month, Sir Richard Branson has made headline news for planning to use his millions in a new bid to block Brexit: he will fund a second referendum campaign,news reports from Britain have suggested. As if the situation is not complicated enough, to the BREXIT cocktail we must now add USA President Donald Trump.
Sir Ronal Sanders is of the view that “… Britain outside the EU deprives the Caribbean of a sympathetic voice on a range of issues, including financial services, and alters the level of official development assistance that will be available from remaining EU members that have no historical relationship with the English-speaking Caribbean. The importance of the UK as a market for their goods and services make it imperative for Caribbean countries to start early ‘talks’ with London so as not to be crowded out by FTAs that the UK will conclude with countries larger and richer than the Caribbean. At the same time, Brexit provides an opportunity for the Caribbean to revisit its unsatisfactory Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU. Caribbean countries need to determine their objectives and take early initiatives to realise them.” Caribbean leaders, however, are not moving fast enough and are busy in reassuring justifiably concerned citizens with generic and hardly convincing statements.