The Ambassador of Great Britain and Northern Ireland accredited near Monrovia, David Belgrove, has assured Liberians that there is no need to fear that his country’s decision to exit the European Union could negatively impact bilateral relations with Liberia.
“There’s no need…for anybody to panic on this,” Ambassador Belgrove told reporters in an exclusive interview over the weekend at the British Embassy in Sinkor, Monrovia.
He said the Brexit (Britain’s exit) will not have any immediate impact on development aid, following intensive negotiations to redefine the Britain-European Union relations, a process he said that may take no less than two years.
“The negotiations will be designed on both sides to ensure that we lessen the impact of this decision on everybody. The negotiations need to make sure that the impact particularly on the poorest people in the world is not great,” said Ambassador Belgrove.
Although he predicted a slowdown in the economy, particularly as a result of volatility in the money market, the British diplomat assured that his government is determined to keep development aid unhindered over the next two years.
“Yes there might and will be a slowdown of the economy and that’s going to affect everybody, but as I said we are committed to keeping our level of development assistance at least the way we are doing it now,” he said.
By an act of legislation, Great Britain commits at least 0.7 percent of its Gross National Income to foreign aid, making it a significant contributor to helping developing countries. In 2015, for the third year running, the government met its spending commitment on foreign aid, with the official budget rising to £12.2bn.
Great Britain is one of Liberia’s major development partners. In addition to huge contributions through the EU to several development programs in the country, Ambassador Belgrove said his country has committed over US$20 million to Liberia’s development efforts. The funding, according to him, was distributed across various sectors including health, education and trade and investment.
Britons voted overwhelmingly on June 23, 2016 by seventeen million against sixteen million to withdraw its membership from the European Union. The decision sent shock waves in many African countries, with fears that the move could possibly severely affect aid.
Ambassador Belgrove described the outcome of the referendum as dramatic and shocking, but said even in the depth of the recession the government of Great Britain “was very clear that the poorest people in the world should not suffer only because we are going through a bit of a hard time,” adding that “we would stick by that.”
He told reporters that until the negotiations are done, Britain remains a full member of the EU and will continue to contribute towards the Union’s development programs.