Regional integration,inter-dependence undermined, says ex-Foreign Secy

Brexit catastrophic, says former FM Bogollagama




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama yesterday asserted that UK’s exit from the EU would certainly hurt Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama said the Brexit couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Sri Lanka, particularly against the backdrop of the ongoing negotiations to regain GSP plus trade concessions.

Responding to a query, Bogollagama told The Island that the British exit would cause chaos in both UK as well as EU territory, thereby affecting large markets and resulting in catastrophic losses to smaller economies.

The stabilization process would take time and smaller economies could be badly affected, Bogollagama said, urging the government to review the situation as a matter of utmost priority.


The former Minister said that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government had blundered by backing Cameron as well as

Labour led campaign to remain within the EU. Pointing out that an influential section of outgoing Premier David Cameron’s Conservative party had strongly campaigned for the UK exit, Bogollagama said that the government should have remained neutral.

Both the government and the influential diaspora groups backed Cameron’s campaign.

Bogollagama said that Brexit would surely inspire nationalist sentiments in other EU territories leading to political upheaval. Premier Cameron’s successor would pursue a British first policy, thereby compelling all nations, including Sri Lanka to seek enhanced bilateral relations.

Bogollagama emphasized that EU wouldn’t be really EU without the UK and the British exit was certainly one of the most significant events to take place this century.

Former Foreign Secretary H. M. G. S. Palihakkara, too, declared that Brexit would be disadvantageous to Sri Lanka. The veteran said that the overwhelming British vote to secede underscored that regional integration and interdependence of states weren’t the panacea for problems. The UK move would strengthen those who had been pushing for traditional sovereignty and heritage at the expense of much touted European integration. Palihakkara stressed that ‘Brexit’ was likely to influence similar sentiments in other parts of the world. Palihakkara, who had been Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to UN in New York said that such an eventuality would have been unthinkable about a year ago. Many wouldn’t have taken ‘yes’ vote for ‘Brexit’ seriously at the time, Cameron won May 2015 parliamentary polls, Palihakkara said.

Asked whether ‘Brexit’ would be advantageous to Sri Lanka, a serving diplomat told The Island that it would cut both ways. The diplomat said that perhaps it would be easier to deal bilaterally with the EU rather than in a grouping. But the need to positively engage the UK in a more concerted manner should be a high priority, the official said, adding that a re-thinking of strategy was required.

A senior spokesperson for the Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF) told The Island that the Brexit as well as its impact on other countries within the grouping would certainly weaken those promoting separatist sentiments. Asked to explain, Diaspora groups, particularly those based in the UK had brazenly exploited major political parties to influence the EU ban on fish exports from Sri Lanka as well as GSP plus. European politicians had no option but to dance to the tune of those who could have delivered sizable block votes to them; the spokesperson said, adding that the EU played a pivotal role in US-led project to adopt a resolution on Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The GSLF expressed confidence that the next British government would certainly change its position vis a vis Sri Lanka. Cameron’s efforts to appease the Diaspora over the past 18 months should be compared with British action aimed at hauling Sri Lanka up before a hybrid war crimes court, the spokesperson said.

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