- Colombian President Santos speaks in interview in Medellin
- Peace deal with Marxist rebels may happen within two months
Fears over the possible impact of a British vote to leave the European Union have reached as far Colombia, which warned of the difficulties of negotiating new deals with the U.K.
“I sincerely hope that British people once again demonstrate their intelligence and vision and vote to not get out of the European Union -- I think it would be a big mistake,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview Thursday. “We have a very good relationship with the U.K., and with the rest of Europe, and just simply to start negotiating everything again with the U.K., it’s a headache.”
The prospect of Britain exiting the trading bloc after the June 23 vote triggered a sell off in world stock markets in recent weeks, as polls showed increased support for a vote to leave. Santos, who studied at the London School of Economics and who has described himself as an admirer of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said markets are clearly nervous about the prospect of Brexit.
Colombia has a free-trade deal with the European Union.
Brexit isn’t the only short-term risk for Colombia, which is struggling with falling prices for its oil, coal and coffee exports. S&P Global Ratings changed Colombia’s rating outlook to negative this year, saying growth prospects have deteriorated amid the tumble in oil prices.
The South American nation has moved swiftly to try to diversify its economy away from oil, Santos said. The oil price drop is a “blessing in disguise,” since the economy had become too dependent on raw materials exports, he said.
The economy will receive a boost from a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which is now imminent, Santos said. Colombia has held peace talks with the Marxist group since 2012, seeking a deal to end a half-century conflict.
“I am quite confident that we will reach an agreement with the FARC before the of the year for sure, and I would say within the next couple of months,” he said. This will allow the Andean nation to boost spending on health and education, he said.