ARE THE BRITISH OVERSEAS TERRITORIES READY FOR BREXIT?
Are the British Overseas Territories ready for Brexit?
With just two weeks to go before the intended date for the UK’s departure of the European Union many questions have risen to the implications of Brexit to our Overseas Territories.
Until recently, it has been cloudy what may happen in the event of ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ with a lot of noise from lots of different outlets.
Hopefully we can help solidify answers to some of the questions raised over the past few years.
The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been working on post-Brexit friendships with the Overseas Territories since the start, both in the Whitehall department and those who would be directly affected by the EU-Exit have been working locally with their partners to ensure a smooth transition.
Currently some Overseas Territories receive EU development funding through an organisation called the Overseas Territories and Countries Association (OCTA). This will continue to flow to the OTs until 2020 which is when the UK is paid up until. It is expected this funding will not continue past 2020 unless an agreement is made, either between the Overseas Territory and OCTA or through a blanket agreement between the UK and EU. The UK Treasury has already announced it will fill any funding gaps such as these.
Looking specifically at OTs - trade continuity deals with non-EU countries will continue as normal and obviously if a trade deal is reached with the EU, trade would continue as usual.
The OTs directly affected are Gibraltar, Anguilla, Dhekelia & Akrotiri - these all border EU states. The Atlantic territories such as Falkland Islands, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha will be indirectly affected by possible trade tariff hikes.
The military bases Dhekelia and Akrotiri will continue with a seamless border which has already been agreed with Cyprus - this was a bilateral decision.
With Anguilla, the Governor’s Office (part of the FCO) on the ground has been speaking with the French and Dutch governments in St Martin and a bilateral agreement has been made that there will be no change in visa-free travel between these territories. In terms of trade, Anguilla imports most medicines and goods from the US, so there will be no enormous effects. Anguilla benefits from the OCTA funds, but as already said, they will continue to receive these funds until 2020 and then the UK has committed to continue the funding.
Gibraltar is in a peculiar situation as it already has a hard border, outside of Schengen and outside the customs union. Most of its shops are UK chain stores which import their products, and Chief Minister Fabian Picardo has said that he has no doubt that Gibraltar will be fully provisioned. The only problem they may face is longer border delays from Spain. The local governments have set up offices to assist people who may face difficulties in post-Brexit Gibraltar. People are still expected to be able to cross the border on the condition they have a passport with at least 3 months validity - a series of technical notices have been published here which you may find useful: https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/brexit.
Spain has passed legislation protecting the rights of the 365,967 British nationals – including Gibraltarians - currently living in Spain. The Spanish Government have used a royal decree to ensure a smooth transition, with Luis Marco Aguiriano, the Spanish Secretary of State for the EU, saying “we have told them that our royal decree will ensure that everything remains the same in the case of a no-deal Brexit”.
Other Overseas Territories such as St Helena, Falkland Islands and Tristan da Cunha may see trade tariff hikes with the EU until the UK has established a new trade relationship or Free Trade Deal. However, as the UK makes new trade arrangements around the world, new markets will open for the Falklands over time which is an exciting prospect.
Deal or no deal?
In the event of a no deal or deal, visa free access is expected to continue unhindered to the EU (for those in Bermuda who still want to go to France for holidays).
Those wealthier Overseas Territories such as Cayman Islands and Bermuda have showed no real concern and are excited by the prospects of new markets opening up as the UK makes new trade deal. For years the EU have blacklisted them unfairly.
From our perspective, we feel confident that the OTs are prepared for Brexit, however we understand their concerns and we have been monitoring updates closely with the Foreign Office to raise those concerns as frequently as possible.