We sat up last night until the little indicator in BBC World’s television studio moved past the crucial point in terms of number of votes – with the blue of “leave” overcoming, by a pretty small margin, the yellow of “remain.” The vote was close, as predicted, but a narrow win for those who wanted the UK to remain in Europe did not materialize. Small towns, rural areas and a few large cities outside London gave the European Union the “thumbs down,” and so did most of Wales. This left Scotland, Northern Ireland and London out in the cold. The United Kingdom is now a Divided Kingdom, I believe. Will Europe remain united, albeit with 27 members instead of 28? Where will it all lead? Having lived outside the UK for so long, I confess to feeling periodic surges of emotion since last night, and a general sense of sadness and anxiety for the future. But…change is inevitable.
The Caribbean, and Jamaica, has hardly started to assess what impact “Brexit” will have on the region. However, Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith put out a statement this morning (June 24). Please see below.
“The Government and People of Jamaica extend greetings to the Government and People of the United Kingdom in the wake of yesterday’s historic staging of a referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union (EU). We applaud the UK for the fact that the referendum (popularly known as Brexit) was conducted freely and fairly, with due regard for the strong democratic tradition, which has been the hallmark of the UK political process.
The margin was close, but ultimately the people have spoken and on the basis of the declared results, those in support of the UK’s withdrawal of its membership from the EU, have carried the day. We acknowledge that the outcome means that the UK will need to initiate the necessary legal and other steps to withdraw from the EU, in accordance with the relevant treaty obligations. This will have significant implications for Jamaica-UK relations and possibly for Jamaica-EU relations. We note also the announcement made by the British Prime Minister early this morning and continue to monitor related political developments.
Jamaica and the UK share a strong historical bond of friendship and cooperation, at the bilateral level and in other spheres of engagement. Yesterday’s vote to leave the EU means that the UK will eventually cease to be part of the relevant arrangements that govern Jamaica-EU relations, including the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement.
Notwithstanding, we trust that renewed efforts will be made to strengthen and expand the Jamaica-UK partnership in all areas, not least in relation to trade, investment and development cooperation. We are certainly committed to working towards these goals. At the same time, we reaffirm our commitment to the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK and express the hope that they and their families will realise their aspirations and contribute to the prospects for a revitalised relationship between Jamaica and the UK.
It is our hope that the UK will unite in dealing with what is undoubtedly a new and historic phase in its history. We wish the Government and people of the UK well as they seek to move forward, taking account of the referendum result.”