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Interview: “Exact Consequences Of Brexit Are Still Being Worked Out”

Brian Olley, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Cameroon, talks of the post-Brexit period and cooperation with Cameroon.

What is the current state and major focus of cooperation between Cameroon and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Thank you for the opportunity. Indeed, the High Commission here in Yaounde as well as being the British High Commission is also the embassy. This is because I am the Ambassador for Chad, Gabon and the Equatorial Guinea. So we are actually at the heart of the diplomatic work for the region.

It is an important mission here and I am glad today to speak to you about our priorities.  Of course, I have been working for the past two and a half years, with the government of Cameroon on many issues. The priority has been consistently to make the best we can of the prosperity opportunities for the mutual benefit of the two countries. By that I mean developing the partnership for prosperity, to support economic growth and opportunities for the private sector in Cameroon. We very much need a strong economy in Cameroon. A strong economy is the basis for fighting extremism.

It is also the basis for increased security and for business to ensure that the young people in Cameroon are able to realize their dreams and to move on and improve their quality of  life. So prosperity and support to private sector initiatives have been the real priority. Secondly, we have been working very closely with the government of Cameroon and security services; the Cameroonian army and the police on issues of security.

Offering training for members of the security forces both in the United Kingdom and also sending teams here in Cameroon and we very much look forward to continue that in future. Thirdly, our priority has been very much humanitarian assistance. We have been helping Cameroon deal with the problem of refugees and displaced persons.

The United Kingdom is presently  at a turning point in its history as its citizens voted in favour of the country leaving the European Union and there is already a new government in place. How does your government intend to manage the period after Brexit?

We have seen very significant changes obviously in the British government over the past month since the historic decision by the British people on leaving the European Union. We have seen an example of democracy in action with the change not just of Prime Minister but also of many other key ministers within our government including our new Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. 

The exact consequences of this historic decision are, of course, still being worked out.  But what is clear is that Britain is determined to reinforce our place in the world, and we are seeking a solution with Europe that is both good for Britain and for Europe. Trade with the European Union is extremely important to us. We need to make sure that commerce is at the very foundation of our new relationship with the European Union.

How will the vote to leave the European Union and the advent of the new government in your country affect relations with Cameroon?

First of all I should like to emphasis that the referendum results of a month ago was vital for the government of Great Britain. At the moment, the United Kingdom is still a full member of the European Union. I still have here next to me the European Union flag flying. Indeed, we are still a full member. We respect all our obligations and our rights as members of the European Union. Presently, there is no change.

However, we are looking forward to in future for opportunities to increase the links between Cameroon and United Kingdom to the mutual benefits of the two countries. Trade relations are strong today as they were a month ago. Indeed, we have seen how some of the financial markets have taken decisions and the financial markets in London are in a   stronger position than they were before the referendum results. 

We are very much looking forward in the coming years to negotiate with Cameroon to strengthen the trade links between our countries and also to look at ways of developing both our cooperation over security and humanitarian issues and as well as, of course, reinforcing our long standing cultural links.

During celebrations marking the Queen’s 90th Birth Day party, you announced new orientations in Cameroon-UK relations. What are they?

The Queen’s Birth Day Party is always a moment of great joy. We very much enjoy the opportunity to invite our friends and business associates to share with us. As I said during the party, Her Majesty the Queen has been a beckon of stability throughout the world. We very much appreciate the way she has put together the United Kingdom and also the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will play an even stronger role in the years to come.

I am delighted that we have in many ways reinforced the opportunities for Cameroonians by offering many more scholarships to study in the United Kingdom. This year, we will be sending more than 20 Cameroonians to the United Kingdom to study for a year on a Master’s Degree Level as part of the Chevening Scholarship Award.  We also support the Ministry of Higher Education in the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. We also run a scholarship scheme for Cameroonian women to study here in Cameroon.

Any special message to Cameroonians?

My message to the Cameroonian people is that I have been living here over the last two and a half years. As somebody who was born in Africa, I have come to appreciate the huge opportunities Cameroon has and I very much look forward for the United Kingdom playing her full part  in helping Cameroon realize the full potential that the country has in years to come.


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