Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 30, 2016 (SKNIS): Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, said his Government is closely monitoring the developments from Brexit – the United Kingdom’s (UK) proposed move to leave the European Union (EU) – and the impact it could have on the twin-island federation and the Caribbean region.
At his monthly press conference on Wednesday (June 29), Dr. Harris, who is also the Minister of Finance, cited the turbulence in international markets and worries about global growth since the results of the June 23 UK referendum that saw 52 percent of persons voted to leave the EU.
“Nothing has changed for us (St. Kitts and Nevis) in relation to our formal relationship with the European Union,” he said. “We still have an EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement). The trade policy, the aid and investment policy of the UK was locked into an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) framework and much of what they would have done for St. Kitts and Nevis would have been part of a multilateral mechanism.”
However, the Brexit result saw an announcement by UK Prime Minister, Honourable David Cameron, that he intends to demit office later this year. Speaking specifically to the UK’s commitment to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. Harris noted that Prime Minister Cameron had previously indicated support for a number of areas including the criminal justice system.
“We would want to see what new thinking the new prime minister and his Cabinet will bring to issues of security, will bring to issues of prison reform and development,” he stated.
Concern was also expressed for expatriates who would have worked in the UK and are receiving a pension from there. Prime Minister Harris said “as the [British] pound takes a beating the pensioners are going to have less of a disposable income.”
“I would advise caution,” the St. Kitts and Nevis leader said, referring to local stakeholders. “I will say that the short run may look a bit pessimistic but the market will settle and we will move on.”
Prime Minister Harris also said that he “took comfort” in the comments of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who he acknowledged has the title as the most powerful woman in Europe. Those comments essentially were that the UK will be given time to negotiate after officially notifying the European Union of its wish to sever after more than 40 years of membership. To do so, the UK has to initiate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which states that “Any Member States may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its constitutional requirement.” However, Chancellor Merkel reaffirmed that the EU remains a place of solidarity.