GUEST EDITORIAL: Dr DYLAN GREGORY VERNON, Ambassador of Belize to the European Union and the Kingdom of Belgium


It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to commend the website for its thought provoking analysis of the impact of the Brexit process on ACP countries. This is an issue of considerable importance to Belize’s relations with the EU, and especially in the area of trade.

As an earlier article pointed out, Belize has one of the highest levels of dependence on the UK market in its trade with the EU amongst ACP countries (73% in 2015), with a particularly high dependence on the UK market in products where existing tariff preferences are commercially significant.

While the destinations for Belize’s exports to the EU were marginally more diversified in 2016 (particularly in the sugar sector as a result of the emergence of new exporters), the exceptionally high dependence on the UK market in our trade with the EU remains.

Against this background if you take the UK market away from the EU markets served under our economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the EU, the value of the agreement is considerably reduced for Belize.

This suggests that if the EPA we have concluded with the EU is to continue to be relevant in our efforts to promote the structural economic development of our economy, in ways that lead to sustainable poverty reduction, then our exporters will likely need assistance in dealing with the market consequences of Brexit for our trade relationship with the EU.

Belize is not alone in facing these challenges. A range of ACP countries find themselves in a similar position. All of us need certainty with regard to the continuation of our current access to the UK market after the UK’s formal departure from the EU, currently scheduled for the 30th March 2019.  All of us, to varying degrees are likely to require some form of market repositioning support, to adjust the consequences of Brexit for EU27 markets.

These market consequences have been explored on an illustrative basis at the country and sector level in previous postings.  They have been dealt with both in articles looking specifically at the impact of Brexit in particular areas and in articles looking at wider sector specific developments in the EU (e.g. in the EU sugar sector).  This most recent compilation, however, takes the analysis still further.

The analysis of the possible impact of Brexit on the functioning of Pacific palm oil supply chains raises the need for trilateral customs cooperation between ACP, the UK and the EU27 governments, in order to minimise the disruption of existing supply chains developed to serve markets across the EU28. While this focusses on Pacific palm oil supply chains, similar issues may well arise in the functioning of fair trade supply chains served by Belizean sugar producers.

The analysis of the possible impact of Brexit on the legal framework in the UK for agro-food sector production and trade highlights the importance of getting to grips with a range of non-tariff issues potentially impacting on the ACP’s agro-food sector export trade with the UK. The legal uncertainty potentially created by the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act, could, it is argued, give rise to a veritable flood of new legislative requirements which could overload the UK regulatory system. In this context the warning to UK agro-food sector stakeholders to ‘look out for things that have been missedwould appear to apply equally to ACP exporters.

Meanwhile, the analysis of recent UK government statements on the future basis of access for developing countries to the UK market highlights the continued uncertainties which exist with regard to how the current terms and conditions of access to the UK market for non-LDC ACP members, such as Belize, are to be ensured. This is an important issue that will need to be resolved soon, given the commencement of commercial contract negotiations in the coming year related to exports to be undertaken in 2019.

Given the seven months which have elapsed since the first appearance of articles exploring the impact of Brexit on the ACP Group, I would like to take this opportunity to summarise the various areas which, it appears, will need to be addressed if ACP countries are not to find themselves disadvantaged by the Brexit process.  To my mind, as has been highlighted by, the most important of these include:

  • the need for early certainty on the extension of current terms and conditions of access enjoyed by ACP countries to the UK market from the date of the UK’s formal departure from the EU;
  • the importance of addressing the legal basis for non-tariff market access requirements in the UK once the 1972 European Communities Act is repealed;
  • the need to address preference erosion issues in trade with the UK as part of the refitting of existing EPAs into bilateral agreements with the UK, given the prospect of major changes to UK trade and agricultural policies post-Brexit;
  • the importance of addressing the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on the functioning of EU27 markets of greatest importance to ACP exporters (particularly for bananas and sugar, both areas of special interest to Belize);
  • the need to address trilateral customs cooperation issues in order to prevent the disruption of existing ACP supply chains serving EU27 markets through the UK and the UK market through an EU27 member states.

Effectively getting to grips with the various issues arising in these five areas, in ways which ensure that no ACP country is disadvantaged by the Brexit process, should not be beyond the joint capabilities of the ACP, the UK and EU27 governments.  However, it does require the active engagement of policy makers, traders and producers in identifying the specific issues that will need to be addressed.  It will especially require focussed activities to ensure all the necessary regulatory steps are taken in time to ensure that Belize and no ACP country is left worse off by the un-intended consequences of Brexit.

Ambassador Dylan Gregory Vernon

Ambassador Vernon took up his post as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the European Union and the Kingdom of Belgium in October 2013.  In this capacity he is also a non-resident representative to the WTO and non-resident Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of France, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Kingdom of Spain. Given the multi-faceted nature of the impact of Brexit, issues related to Brexit arise in the context of all these representational functions.

Since his appointment as Ambassador, Dr Vernon has acted as coordinator of the CARIFORUM Group in Brussels, been a Bureau member of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors and is currently Chair of the ACP Sugar Committee, as well as being the Caribbean representative on the Task Force on the ‘Future Perspectives’ of the ACP Group.

His undergraduate and initial post graduate education took place in the USA and Canada respectively, before returning to full time post graduate education at University College London, where he obtained his PhD in 2013. In the interim Dr Vernon has had a professional career as a lecturer and educationalist, an active engagement in the promotion and consolidation of democracy and period of international service with UNDP.