The impact of Brexit on the Falkland Islands' fishing industry could be “significant” according to the fishing industry, contradicting lawmaker MLA Roger Spink’s view in last week's Penguin News that there were measures that could be undertaken to mitigate the impact of potential tariffs.
Fellow lawmaker MLA Teslyn Barkman, who takes the lead on the Brexit portfolio, has also responded sharply, commenting that MLA Spink’s opinions “should not be confused for the Government’s view.”
The FIG Policy and Economic Development Directorate also indicated there were no easy solutions.
In a letter to Penguin News this week Executive Secretary of the Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association James Bates points out the cost could be as high as £500k “for each of the sixteen vessels operating in this fishery.”
MLA Spink mooted reflagging of vessels to EU flags in order to avoid tariffs, but Mr. Bates said it was not an option for many Falklands companies He said there were “not any easy options in a Brexit ‘No Deal’ situation.” MLA Barkman told Penguin News, “MLA Spink raised some of his opinions in the article last week which should not be confused for the Government’s view.”
She said FIG had poured months of work in the form of research and meetings into highlighting the long-term impacts of UK's EU Exit and had produced three reports on the possible effects as well as seeking legal advice on their standing.
She said: “Specific points MLA Spink raised on ‘tariff evasion’ tactics are not simple, nor evidenced as achievable. I’d like to reassure our fisheries industry, businesses who service them, and suppliers to FIMCO that our commitment to raise the impact of EU Exit has not diminished or changed tactic.”
Fortuna General Manager Mike Poole described himself as unnerved by MLA Spink’s, “breezy assessment of the impact of Brexit on the Falklands fishery, in particular the suggestion that Falklands' squid trawlers could seek registration elsewhere.”
Mr. Poole said, “The importance of where ships are registered should not be underestimated. Where vessels register largely depends on the rules and regulations which a particular flag state decides to impose upon vessels as requisites for registration. In addition to safety standards, registration can also serve a number of legal functions including the right to engage in activities within the territorial waters of the flag state provided that certain economic conditions are met.
Vessel registration is therefore a crucial lever that the Falklands have in maintaining control and ensuring revenue from the maritime industry.” He said Falklands' trawlers, like any vessel registered in a UK Overseas Territory, “are British ships and are entitled to fly the Red Ensign flag. British ships fishing in the Falklands are quite clearly of paramount importance politically.
The so-called Red Ensign group is an important part of the United Kingdom Ship Register which is widely accepted as the world’s most prestigious and reputable. As a proactive leader in the IMO and one of the top performing flags on the Paris MOU White List the UK has a reputation for maintaining the highest international safety standards.
”The Falklands-flagged fishing fleet is known as a quality operation that contributes to that high standard.” He underlined that if EU import tariffs were introduced, the operating costs of the fishing industry would increase.
“While that may change over time we can be sure the market will oppose any increase in price. Therefore a tradeoff must be found, but Falklands ship registration or company registration, should not be part of the formula.”
Finally he referred to the shorter term concern that, “the time-frames here are against us. If the UK were to leave the EU in October, then we would not have 12 months to prepare. We would have products arriving in the EU market immediately after that departure, so the stark reality is that the industry would immediately feel the impact of tariffs being imposed.” (Penguin News).