By Carl Joseph
Talks are now underway with the government of Spain as the Government of Antigua and Barbuda (GOAB) seeks to replace the United Kingdom as their European Union (EU) gateway, given Great Britain’s recent departure from the EU.
There already exist bilateral and diplomatic relations between these two countries. Antigua and Barbuda has an embassy in Madrid, while Spain is accredited to Antigua and Barbuda from its embassy in Kingston, Jamaica.
Foreign Affairs Minister EP Chet Greene hinted this week that Antigua and Barbuda must now look to a country within the EU where “we might domicile operations for the benefit of extracting benefits and deepening relationships” with the EU.
In March 2019, the UK and the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) members — to include Antigua and Barbuda — signed the continuity Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to ensure trade under preferential terms post Brexit.
“It is from the UK that we made all of our contacts with the wider European Union,” the foreign affairs minister said.
“Now that the UK is not apart of the Union, the time has come for us to look critically at another European capital of a country within the Union,” Greene added.
Speaking at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press conference, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst indicated that, “now that the Spanish government realises that it could play a continuous role, even with independent countries in our region”.
Hurst said that the choice of Spain is a natural one because “Spain has shown great interest in our region” since the early days of the Spanish conquests.
“This 350 year history is one that has Spain playing a very important role from the very beginning,” said Hurst.
“Spain is one of the countries that we are aiming at strengthening relations with in order to ensure that the Europeans can be in touch with us … primarily since the Brits are no longer part of the European Union,” he added.
Economic and commercial relations between Antigua and Barbuda and Spain are scarce. Main exports from Spain to Antigua and Barbuda are ships, boats, machines and equipment.
Antigua and Barbuda’s investments in Spain are minimal. Antigua and Barbuda’s investments in Spain have declined each year from €1.5 million in 2008 to €54,690 in 2012.