While some are already speculating about whether Great Britain will now actually go through with its popular mandate to pull out of the European Union, it’s still worth considering some of the specific effects on the Western Hemisphere. Much has already been written wondering whether this spells the end for the liberal world order or the rise of xenophobia and nationalism that will kill free trade and the international order. But all of those concerns over a potential emerging zeitgeist are mere speculation.
In the meantime, here are a few questions about the concrete ways that Brexit may potentially affect the region. Let’s take a look at them:
- Will Caribbean Commonwealth countries lose their special access to the EU Market?
Since the Lomé and Cotonou treaties in the European Common Market (later EU), former colonies of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Great Britain have enjoyed special access to the European market. This means that the members of the Commonwealth Countries—former colonies of Great Britain, 10 of them in the Caribbean—have enjoyed preferential access to the EU market. But will it remain now that Great Britain is pulling out? The loss of the entire EU market would be a crushing loss to countries like Jamaica and Grenada, which may very well be about to also lose Venezuela’s oil-giveaway program Petro-Caribe.
- Now who’s going to break from MERCOSUR for the EU?
Talks between the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and the EU had restarted earlier this year, but then were scuttled by France. Brexit occurred just as a number of countries in Mercosur had been eyeing breaking free from their hobbled attempt to create a customs union to individually negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union. The recently elected president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, had expressed interest, as had the interim government of Michel Temer in Brazil. (In the case of the latter, the foreign minister, Jose Serra, expressed his desire to press on with free trade talks with the EU, though, quite frankly, the government securing an agreement and getting it approved given its temporary status–or even have the discussions continue later—always seemed a pipe dream.)
But now what? Sure, for South American countries the EU is still an attractive market for with five of the top 20 global economies in its borders, even once Great Britain is out, but right now negotiating a trade deal with Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay is not going to be the EU’s immediate priority, certainly not on Argentina or Brazil’s timetable.
- Does this open up Great Britain’s agricultural market?
Freed of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy that has protected member countries’ agricultural producers, will Great Britain become a more open market for Argentina and Brazilian grains, beef and soybeans? Tough to know, and much will depend on what Great Britain and the EU negotiate in the two years they have to untangle Great Britain from the EU. But an agricultural market with a total GDP of $2.8 trillion (Great Britain) is a hell of a lot less attractive than the EU’s of $17 trillion.
- Falklands/Malvinas ramp up?
Speculation has already started in Argentina that Great Britain’s Brexit predicament may make it more disposed to surrender the Falkland/Malvinas off Argentina’s coast. As they say where I live (Brooklyn) “fugedaboudit.” The strain of nationalism that led to the Brexit is not about to lie down while the proud British people give away a series of rocky islands that they believe are rightly theirs. In fact, if anything this makes it all the less likely that the Argentine’s will be able to pry the UK’s fingers from the islands, Falklanders—who consider themselves part of Britain—and its sheep.