By Mellica McPherson-Ganda
The next Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting would be held in June at which time the Leaders of the United Kingdom’s Overseas Territories are expected to further express their interest as the mother country moves forward with its plans to leave the European Union in a process commonly referred to as BREXIT.
Meanwhile BVI Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith and other OT Leaders have described the meeting they had with Minister for Exiting the European Union Robin Walker and Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office The Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay on February 7 as fruitful.
Premier Smith attended the Special JMC meeting together with nine other Overseas Territories (OT) Leaders to discuss issues surrounding the United Kingdom’s BREXIT initiative. During the discourse the Leaders were apprised on matters involving access to the European Union’s single market and financial services international trade, free movement within the European Union by British Overseas Territories citizens, and most important the future of the enjoyed British Overseas Territories European Union funding.
Premier Smith informed the gathering that the Territory has a keen interest in Trade particularly fisheries and asked that the BVI be included in the tariff-free trade arrangement: “The BVI sees international trade as essential to its economic future, particularly in the continued provision of services to international business, but also in goods in areas such as fisheries.”
“Undoubtedly we would like inclusion in any tariff-free trade arrangement the UK secures with the EU and I encourage the UK to secure this option for the territories so that BVI companies, whether domestic or international, maintain the ability to trade in goods competitively with the EU with as few barriers as possible,” the Premier added.
As it relates to EU funding, the Premier asked the United Kingdom to continue to support the measure so that BVI can continue to benefit: “In the 11th EDF programming process, the EU has recognised to some degree, their responsibility to support BVI and others that are among the most affected by the negative impacts of climate change that places our economy at risk.”
“…we want the UK Government to commit to maintaining its contribution to the 11th EDF through 2020 to permit the BVI and other Caribbean territories to complete the programming process,” the BVI Leader further noted.
He also joined his colleagues in highlighting the need for freedom of movement in the EU for BVI citizens, noting that this is of the utmost importance and critical for business, higher education and other purposes.
SERIOUS DOUBTS IN BVI
Kathleen Brooks, director of research at City Index, is quoted by The Independent as saying that a ‘hard Brexit’, is likely to come “at the cost” of a period of economic disruption, which is “likely to be negative for the pound”. The same source states that “experts warn that London’s position as a financial hub will be dealt a severe blow if the UK left the single market. However, that access is contingent on countries agreeing to let European Union citizens live and work anywhere in the bloc.”
British overseas territories are not part of the EU and their combined population of approximately 250,000 was mostly unable to vote in the Brexit referendum. According to the Financial Times “the UK government’ recent white paper simply stated that the territories’ relationship with the EU ‘will also change’”.
The same source noted that “Orlando Smith, premier of the British Virgin Islands, said a visa regime “would make it more difficult” for residents of the overseas territories. The BVI was anxious that EU development funds were fully replaced after Brexit, and keen that the UK should state its case on issues important to the territory such as financial regulation.”
BVI observers have expressed serious doubts that the BVI will benefit in any form from Brexit – soft or hard.
The meeting commenced with an update on the UK’s BREXIT preparation. The OT Leaders were apprised of the preparation before the UK triggers Article 50 which is expected to occur by the end of March.
Minister for Exiting the European Union Hon. Walker assured the OT’s that when the UK leaves the European Union the strong relationship between the mother country and its Overseas Territories as it relates to mutual trade and business links will continue.
“The UK Government is committed to engaging with our friends in the Overseas Territories as we prepare to exit the EU, and ensuring that we get a deal that works for everyone. In this context, we discussed how the Territories can contribute to a truly global Britain,” Hon. Walker noted.
Meanwhile, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office The Rt. Hon. Baroness Anelay emphasized that the Overseas Territories are integral to the UK Government’s ambitions to create a more outward looking United Kingdom.
“We are committed to taking their priorities into account as we prepare for negotiations to exit the EU…I have discussed this very issue during my visits to the Overseas Territories and am keen to build on this early positive engagement to ensure the deal the UK Government ultimately negotiates works for all,” Baroness Anelay added.
In addition to the BVI, the meeting was attended by the Leader of Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, St. Helena and Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
On the UK side there was also attendance from Lord Price CVO, International Trade minister, Lord Bates; the International Development minister and the Home Office’s Deputy Director for EU Exit Immigration Policy, Mark Doran; and Alex Ellis, the Director General at the Department for Exiting the European Union.