Brexit and the Caribbean

Brexit Caribbean
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Examining the Brexit’s impact on the Caribbean

By Marcia Forbes, PhD
CJ Contributor

Is Britain Working to Unbalance Europe?

It is all moving so fast in the United Kingdom one can barely keep up. Many adjusted their schedules so as to attend the ‘Brexit: Implications for the Caribbean’ forum hosted by the University of the West Indies. That was June 29th. In ‘Setting the Stage’, Vice Chancellor, Sir Hilary Beckles, presented a fascinating historical perspective on the behaviour of the British in relation to the European Continent.

Sir Hilary highlighted what he sees as a trend for the British to always work in a strategic manner so as to keep Europe unbalanced while at all times seeking to advance the dominance of the United Kingdom (UK) and to keep Britain great. He took the audience back to a time of strategic royal marriages, reminded us how Britain wrestled the Caribbean away from Spain and of trade agreements arrived at in Great Britain’s best interest.

Sir Hilary also reminded us of how the British broke the power of the Dutch, a nation those of us who studied history will remember as ‘sailors of the world’. He gave the British much kudos for strategic planning and forward thinking.

Jamaica’s Former Prime Minister & British High Commissioner Somewhat Disagree with VC

Declaring, “My reaction is somewhat different from Sir Hilary’s”, Former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, did not believe that the UK had so carefully planned its strategy of domination at every step of the way over the past several centuries. Neither did British High Commissioner to Jamaica, David Fitton who remarked that “Sir Hilary gives Britain too much credit for such deep planning.” Admittedly, Fitton did say that he agreed with much of what Sir Hilary said.

Especially in light of the contentious Brexit vote and how untidy, unexpected and dangerous the events that have been unfolding since then, things in Britain do not seem as strategic and as scripted as the VC believes. But as he noted, when confidential papers are released several years from now, the Brexit plot will be revealed.

In another article I will highlight some important points raised at that forum regarding the implications of Brexit for the Caribbean but first wanted to feature some of the points made in the forum’s agenda item ‘Setting the Stage’, as laid out above, and to chronicle occurrences in the UK as detailed below.

British Buck-Up

Here are some key dates and developments in the UK, gleaned from newspaper reports and postings via Twitter, pertaining to its decision to withdraw from the European Union (EU) –

  • June 23, 2016 Referendum Day when the people of the UK – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – voted 52% in favour of leaving (Brexit), compared to 48% to remain in the EU.
  • June 24, 2016 UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced his resignation effective October 2016, having been beaten at the polls in his bid to secure a ‘remain’ vote.
  • June 24, 2016 Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, highlighted the likelihood of a second Scottish independence referendum to vote on disengaged from the United Kingdom. This in light of Scotland having voted overwhelmingly (62%) to stay in the EU.
  • June 29, 2016 British Opposition Labour Party lawmakers vote against their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who they believe did not do enough work to secure a ‘remain’ vote. One Member of Parliament reportedly asked Corbyn to “make way for someone with the backbone to confront anti-Semitism” after Corbyn made a remark construed as anti-Israel.
  • June 29, 2016 Corbyn defiantly refused to be ousted despite a 75% vote against him among the 229 lawmaker voters. Corbyn argued that Labour Party members and supporters voted him in as their leader only last year and by a 60% majority.
  • June 30, 2016 in a surprising turn, Boris Johnson, the presumed successor to Prime Minister David Cameron, and the person who led the Brexit vote within the Conservative/Tory Party, announced that we would not enter the race for that position.
  • June 30, 2016 Michael Gove who had previously stated no interest in running for PM announced his intention to run for leadership of his Conservative party and ergo serve as Prime Minister of the UK.
  • June 30, 2016 an email from Michael Gove’s wife Sarah, ostensibly written to him but which some believe was a planted leak, is made public. If written to her husband Michael why would Sarah refer to him in the manner stated in this excerpt from the email? “I really think Michael needs to have a Henry or a Beth with him….”

The crux of this correspondence stated, “One simple message: you MUST have SPECIFIC assurances from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support.” It ends with “Do not concede any ground. Be your stubborn best.”

  • June 30, 2016 Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, headed to Brussels in Belgium where the EU is headquartered to represent her country’s right to remain in that Union.

While history may yet prove wrong all who see Brexit as foretelling anachy and a fall from great for Great Britain, ‘the longest liver will see the most’. For now, much of what is talking place looks and feels unplanned and ‘buck-up’ as Jamaicans would say. The Caribbean region, dare I say through CARICOM, must be strategically thoughtful but quick in its responses to these still evolving developments.

Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles.

Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes