The Falkland Islands Government, both here and in London, have worked hard over the past four years to ensure that the impact of Brexit on the Falkland Islands was fully understood by the UK government.
One particular area of significant focus has been the fishing industry and government officials and Members of the Legislative Assembly have been working closely with the sector to ensure that their concerns were understood and directly expressed to decision-makers in the UK.
The UK government has acknowledged that, from a trade perspective, the Falkland Islands will be the most negatively impacted UK Overseas Territory as a result of the withdrawal from the European Union. Subsequently, we have been working to explore solutions to offset this impact and this has resulted in a plan which explicitly requests that the UK pursues the following five options in order to secure our continued tariff and quota-free trading relationship with the EU:
• A reintroduction of Falkland Islands trade issues within continuing EU negotiations – this would involve specific bilateral discussions between the UK and EU to ensure that the Falkland Islands’ voice is not lost as decisions continue to be made up until 31 December
• A request for UK government to make an intervention on our behalf with EU leaders or the President of the Commission – this would enable us to make a case for a deal for our exports, possibly as part of a UK compromise to extend the fisheries access to the EU
• A request for continued tariff and quota-free trade for the Falkland Islands, in return for extending the fisheries access status quo for EU member states – if arrangements are extended then it is critical that our requirements are fed into the ongoing negotiations
• Falkland Islands inclusion in 2021 negotiations with the EU – the future relationship of the UK and is EU is still to be defined and it is vital that we are considered within this context
• A request for UK government to propose a new settlement for UK and EU overseas territories – this is the biggest ask of all, but would enable a ground roots conversation about the impact of the EU withdrawal on all affected nations at every level.
MLA Teslyn Barkman, portfolio lead for Natural Resources and Brexit, said: “The UK’s withdrawal from the EU and its impact on the Falkland Islands is the most pressing issue we currently face, with the very real prospect of our fisheries exports being subject to tariffs of up to 18% from 1 January 2021, as a result of Brexit. The sector accounts for over 40% of our GDP and up to 60% of government revenue, so poses a serious challenge to the wider Falkland Islands economy. While we are equipped to deal with the volatility that fishing industry naturally faces, if you factor in the impact of Brexit then our economy is facing the perfect storm.
“From the beginning, we have worked with the FCDO and UK government to explore all options to secure our continued tariff and quota-free trading relationship with the EU. We have also set out a constructive approach to ensure that the significant impacts on the Falkland Islands are felt. While we understand that these are complex negotiations, we cannot afford to not have our voice heard and which is why we have provided five avenues for the UK to pursue in order to ensure that we are not left behind.
“With less than a month to go until the UK leaves the EU, we are now asking for an intervention from the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister or Minister for the Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development, with senior leaders within the EU who can effect material change. At this late stage, we believe this is the only way in which we can make some significant progress. As a responsible government we need to prepare for all eventualities and will continue to work closely with FIFCA to keep the lines of communication open and to impress upon our counterparts within UK government just how vital this issue to the future economic development of everyone in the Falkland Islands.”