September 23, 2020

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Could Brexit lead to a Caribexit?


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By Pat Hoyos, From Nation News Barbados

In her speech to the House of Commons announcing that government had triggered the legendary Article 50, thus putting Britain on a two-year deadline in which to negotiate its departure from the , Prime Minister Theresa May said Brexit would be “this generation’s chance to shape a brighter future for our country,” offering “a chance to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be”.
And although the world had been waiting for that letter from London to be delivered to Brussels, the reality of a “hard Brexit” hit home in a way that no amount of expectation could have prepared us for.
It was the biggest event in European diplomatic history since World War II, some said. So it got me thinking about our own membership of Caricom, and wondering whether Barbados would be better off doing a “Caribexit,” or maybe, a “Crexit.” Would that be the biggest thing to happen in these parts since, say, the coming of Independence to the region’s countries in the Sixties?
And could we pull it off and still stay in the Caribbean Court of Justice? Hmm, now there’s a point.
All this breaking up and going it alone reminded me of that famous scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” movie, where the rebels, led by John Cleese, are asked over and over by their leader: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Sheepishly, one by one, they all come up with things they realise they are totally dependent on, including aqueducts, sanitation, medicine, education, and so on. But, of course, they still end up vehemently opposing accepting Roman rule. You need to see it for yourself, if you haven’t already, on YouTube (in search, just type in “python brian romans”).
Also, while I think a good case could be made for Caricom turning Barbados into an economic province of Trinidad while all sorts of ruses and excuses are employed to keep Bajan exports out of our regional partners’ markets, I think we should pause.
Even if that case were made, we have to think of the younger generations and the ones to come, which have grown up accepting freedom of travel within the region as a virtual birthright.
As the UK Guardian’s columnist Martin Kettle noted, Brexit was never really about the present generation in Britain. Instead, he says, it was “the older generation’s chance to break a relationship with Europe that the younger generation wants to keep”. And he quoted historian as saying that: “Brexit is government of the old, by the old, for the old.”
So, while Caricom has not succeeded, as if it ever could have, in turning Barbados into a beehive of manufacturing for the region’s markets, it has been useful in helping a few companies to export on a growing scale.
I am thinking of Banks Holdings Ltd., which, thwarted for years by Caricom members’ non-tariff barriers, may be finding a new way to penetrate those markets under new ownership; and also Caribbean LED Lighting, which recently announced a major contract to provide renewable energy street lights to Suriname, presumably aided by the common market the latter shares with Barbados – Caricom, of course.
In the future, I think our goal will probably be to focus on headquarters agreements, as Barbados is already the Caribbean version of Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” in terms of people wanting to live and work here.
Our future is in further developing the wonderful combination of island and cosmopolitan lifestyles which have given us an ambience that you won’t find anywhere else.
It makes us a place where executives want to stay even after their contracts here have ended, and it brings out a loyalty – and, you might even say, a sort of nationalism – in them to try to make this speck in the an even more brilliant piece of God’s creation.
But that is the topic for another time.

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising
in business. Email: [email protected]

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