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Regrets Voiced in Cambodia After ‘Brexit’

A scrabble board spells out Brexit in Dublin, Ireland on May 4 2016. (Reuters)

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Britain rose from over $930 million in 2014 to about $1 billion in 2015, an increase of 22.77 percent, according to the British Embassy.

Jeremy Chea was transfixed to the television screen when the result of the United Kingdom referendum on leaving the European Union was announced.

The referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU, known as “Brexit”, saw the country vote by a slim margin in favor of leaving. Jeremy, who lived in the UK for 29 years, said he regretted the outcome.

Britain had not faced any major economic or security issues for some time, he said, but it would have a hard time in the future as the EU might seek to punish it for leaving.

“Now, the EU is getting angry with England because its citizens will walk away from [England]. The important thing, they [the EU] will make it difficult for England to leave the EU… why do they want Britain to get bad deals? It’s because they don’t want other countries to follow England,” he said.

Despite the vote to leave, the country will have two years from when it officially declares its intentions to leave the union to negotiate new trade agreements, freedom of movement and working conditions.

Jeremy, a former British police officer who was born in Cambodia, said the new prime minister, who has yet to be selected since Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation following the vote, would have a hard task ahead.

“The important thing is that for the next two to three years, Britain will work to handle treaties such as a bilateral treaty with the United States, France, and Spain. For example, if Britain worked well on this, that would be positive. Britain would be more prosperous if it could obtain good agreements,” he said.

“But I think that the agreements would not be as good as before... this issue is the most important issue for the next two or three years. The important thing is that there must be a strong person who could fight for a better agreement,” he added.

The main factors believed to have driven almost 52 percent of voters to choose to leave the EU are the effects of mass immigration, the apparent economic cost of being a part of the union, and the perception that the country had sold off its sovereignty to Brussels, where many of the EU’s institutions are headquartered.

Chap Sotharith, a senior economic researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), told VOA Khmer that the British people will regret their decision because companies will leave in favor of other financial centers such as Dublin and Frankfurt.

Stock prices plummeted rapidly after the announcement of the referendum results, he said, and already there were signs that the EU’s leaders had lost confidence in Britain.

The UK joined the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1973 as the sick man of the Europe. It had since rebounded to become the second largest economy on the continent after Germany. But since the Brexit result it slipped into third place behind France.

Sotharith said companies that exported from Cambodia to the UK would be affected.

“If the UK imposes tax on our products, we would feel the effect if we have to trade with each other. We will need to negotiate a new trade deal between the countries,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Britain rose from over $930 million in 2014 to about $1 billion in 2015, an increase of 22.77 percent, according to the British Embassy.

Chum Sounry, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said there would be no impact on Cambodia-UK relations as they were already established bilateral relations.

“This stage is the time that we have to keep track of how the situation develops. It’s not the time for us now to do a clear evaluation,” he said.