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The future after Brexit

VIEWS: Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states

IN THE coming months, the 79-member group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (the ACP) will decide how they prepare for the potentially damaging effect that Brexit may have on their exports to Britain, and the development assistance they presently receive.

At issue will be how to re- tain the valuable relationship that countries from Ghana to Jamaica have with the UK within the European Union (EU) if, as seems increasingly likely, the UK government chooses a hard Brexit and a new trade and development relationship has to be negotiated either with ACP as a group, by region, or in some other configuration.

Speaking to me recently about this, Patrick Gomes, the ACP Secretary General, who was formerly Guyana’s Ambassador to the EU, is clear. The ACP as a group will take a position on Brexit and in doing so aim to encourage the support in Britain of the African and Caribbean diasporas, private sector interests, and friends in the UK Parliament.

In this context his thinking envisages an important role for its diaspora in the UK, irrespective of whichever political party they support. Once the nature of the UK’s exit is clearer, he urges the UK’s large Caribbean and African community to engage with their Parliamentary representatives, the media and others to have them understand the consequences for the ACP if tariffs were to be introduced by Britain on their exports. He also believes it will be necessary to form a Commonwealth-ACP alliance to achieve a positive outcome.

In our conversation he made clear that the Brussels-based ACP Secretariat has begun a detailed trade analysis, looking by economic cluster at the probable impact on sectors such as cut flowers, bananas, rum, and sugar, as well as manu- factured goods that under present EU rules have or will have quota and duty-free access to all member states including the UK.

The objective is to ensure that the group’s members are no worse off in the UK market after the Government formally negotiates its exit from the EU and that they continue to receive quota and duty-free access and unchanged non-tariff regulations.

Ambassador Gomes says that it will also be essential to start a dialogue with the UK’s Department for International Development to ensure Britain still intends to meet its long-term commitment to spend the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of its Gross National Income on supporting development, and that ACP nations see no shortfall in the 15 per cent the UK current- ly contributes to the European Development Fund (EDF). The ACP will, he says, need to make the case in continental Europe about the importance of the EU27 filling any shortfall in the EDF, and in encouraging smaller EU member states such as the Czech Republic to see long-term opportunity in models that link development support to investment in areas in which they have interests and expertise. As yet all of this is at the discussion stage.

However, it poten- tially offers a unique opportunity to see the development of a diaspora lobby able not just to dem- onstrate the long-term mutual economic benefits of a stronger UK trade and development relationship with the nations of the south, but which also in the longer term might lead to the emergence of a stronger voice in London for the nations of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.

David Jessop has worked on Caribbean issues for more than 40 years. He consults on Carib- bean political and economic Affairs, has a weekly syndicated column that for the last 20 years has appeared in the leading newspapers in the Caribbean, and is the Editor of Caribbean Insight and Cuba Briefing. He is also a non-executive director on the Board of Jamaica National Money Services Ltd

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