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Brexit impact on UK-Caribbean Trade Relations

The next article in our series on Brexit is by Andrea M. Ewart, Esq. of DevelopTradeLaw, LLC, out of Washington, D.C. The article captures Ms. Ewart's concerns for the Caribbean region regarding the impact of Brexit on the EPA.

Even as Britons woke up to the reality of their vote, the rest of the world also needed to come to terms with the possible impact of Brexit. This is no less true for the Caribbean.

Should the UK act on the vote and formally request to leave the EU, this begins a two-year negotiating process of the terms of a new EU-UK relationship. Britain’s trade relations with the Caribbean region have been shaped through the lens of its EU membership. Regional leaders need to begin to anticipate the possible impact of Brexit on UK-Caribbean trade relations.

Currently, these relations are formed by the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The parties are, on the one hand, CARICOM and the Dominican Republic (CARIFORUM), and on the other, the 27 EU partners (including the UK).

It is true that each country has expressly committed to provide a specific level of access to the region’s goods and services. So, the rate at which a bottle of rum from Barbados, for example, will enter Britain could remain unchanged.

However, the EPA also contains EU-wide provisions for development cooperation and assistance to the region. EU-wide institutions have been created jointly with CARIFORUM to support EPA implementation and delivery of EU assistance.

Here are some questions the region will need to begin to consider and seek answers to:
• Will Britain decide it wants to renegotiate the terms of the EPA?
• Will Britain want to change the terms of its participation in the program for development assistance and cooperation?
• What will the EU position be toward any attempts by Britain to change EPA terms?
• What does the region want and how will it position itself to achieve those goals?

In addition, Britain remains a key market for many of the region’s products and services. The decline in the pound has made these more expensive. One impact we can anticipate is a decrease in exports to Britain.

Observers expect Britain to become very inward-looking in the next couple of years as it shapes its post-EU future. This makes it more imperative for the region to loudly advocate for a united position aimed at minimizing the potential negative impacts of Brexit.

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