Carmen Gomez

What will Brexit mean for Britain’s fourteen overseas territories; the home of 250,000 Britons? They are seen as remnants of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British. One thing that comes across very clearly, which takes first place before any other necessity, is the issue of EU funding and the dependence of most of the Overseas Territories on it. 

It appears that at the end of the day, the challenge for most would be to find a way to ensure future funding. This is a question that curiously also arises within the EU; however in their case it’s because, without the UK divorce bill of the promised £39 billion by Mrs. May, there will be an explosion everywhere across then board. Everything will not only go array, but the other member states will have to pay up much more in their budgets. It’s also obvious that half way round the world, Brexit raises concerns on movement of goods services and people. Not that it is that clear a concept for us, as yet.

On the Brexit issue; “borders;” the Caribbean territories could face trading issues, since there is an EU frontier in the region. The Caribbean island of Anguilla, who has a sea border with the EU, published a report in 2017 under the heading of “Britain’s forgotten EU border;” as they have not even come up in negotiations. Anguilla has been British since 1650; and it is curiously the only British overseas territory in history, that fought Britain to remain British. It is heavily dependant on its French and Dutch neighbours, with whom; unlike us; she shares a “deep and special relationship,” and is bracing herself at present in the political climate. They consider their position a strategic one, as Anguilla lies on one of the main routes to the Panama Canal that connects the Atlantic to the Pacific. Without having asked for it, they fear that they will lose an important element of their citizenship, which may well give rise to legal challenges in the future; according to Susie Alegre, a lawyer specializing in the rights of citizens in the British overseas territories, who at one time said that serious issues would pop up, particularly in the case of Gibraltar.

British Virgin Islands is not part of the EU, but like Anguilla has associate status. Because of its level of GDP, it received 100 million dollars from the EU; stressing the importance of EU funding in boosting the quality of its tourism product and that of other islands. Then we have Monserrat, again hugely dependant on EU funds. Its Premier, fears that Brexit would remove its access to significant sums in excess of £20 million over the next few years. He is hopeful that the department for International Development; its main donor; will fill that gap. Pitcairn, whilst in receipt of budgetary aid from all, also receives huge amounts from EU who had been encouraging regional cooperation between themselves and French Polynesia, Wallis, Futune, and New Caledonia; all of whom are in receipt of 36million Euros, under the umbrella of “Regional Envelope.” However, after having starting this relationship, they find it has been cut short, and they wonder whether next funds will be coming from the Department for International Development, which is responsible for most of the UK`s aid spending.

Tristan Da Cunha also fears the impact of losing EU funding, together with Turks and Caicos; all of whom had greatly benefitted from EU funds. The Falkland’s are okay with UK funding with its fishing accounting for around 48% of its GDP and exports including over £110 million, of which goes through Spain. However, all fishing licenses that they sell mostly go to Spanish ships that are partly attracted by the Falkland’s current tariff-free trade with the EU. St Helena and Ascension, had been allocated important funds. I understand that at St. Helena there has been the recent completion by the UK of an airport; in a place considered too windy for planes to land; if you consider what the cross winds at home here can do. The Overseas Territories say the UK‘s Darwin Plus Fund, should be extended to address the shortfall of its environments from vast coral reefs, to threatened wild life. Is this fund something to tap into for us in the future?

In the past when the question of self determination has been mooted it was always thought that in trying to accommodate us, this would imply for the UK untold headaches with others aspirations. Orkney in 2017 was looking into whether it could loosen ties with Scotland and the UK; or have greater autonomy or self determination, which would benefit the group of 70 islands. In the wake of Brexit; at a time of constitutional uncertainty within the UK and in Europe; they like us voted to stay in the EU. The thing is this. They all expect to be looked after, as if they were part of the UK proper; just as we do. They feel that the UK has responsibilities towards them; just as we feel. But the question is; will the UK be willing to support all territories during what could be a painful economic transition? On the other hand, the EU has always been keen to develop as direct a relationship as possible with all of Europe’s Overseas Territories, making it possible for those in the Caribbean to negotiate an alternative from of direct partnership. There might be alternative options in relation to their status with both the UK and the EU. Not for us it seems. We are different. We have to contend with a vengeance seeking Dinosaur and a treaty inhibiting its full political emancipation.