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Ever since the result of the 2016 referendum, the Falkland Islands Government, both in the capital of Stanley and in London, has been empahsising the impact of Britain’s decision to quit the bloc will have on the British Overseas Territory. One particular area of concern is the fishing industry and government officials and Members of the Legislative Assembly have been stressing their concerns in conversations with London.
MLA Teslyn Barkman, portfolio lead for Natural Resources and Brexit, warned there was a “very real prospect” of the Falklands’ fisheries exports being subject to tariffs of up to 18 percent from 1 January 2021, as a direct result of Brexit.
She added: “The sector accounts for over 40 percent of our GDP and up to 60 percent 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.”
Ms Barkman added: “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 end of the transition period, Ms Barkman said the Falkland Islands Government was now directly 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”.
She explained: “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.”
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The Falkland Islands Government is pushing for:
- A reintroduction of Falkland Islands trade issues within continuing EU negotiations involving specific bilateral discussions between the UK and EU
- Continued tariff and quota-free trade for the Falkland Islands, in return for extending the fisheries access status quo for EU member states
- A request for UK government to propose a new settlement for UK and EU overseas territories, enabling a discussion about the impact of the EU withdrawal on all affected nations at every level
Given the Falklands is not a member of the EU, its 3,200 residents were not given the option to vote in the 2016 referendum.
However, given more than 80 percent of its fish exports – mostly squid – goes to Spain, they clearly has a huge vested interest in Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost reaching an agreement.
Speaking last year, fisherman Stuart Wallace, who runs the Fortuna fishing company, told the Guardian: “The seafood industry is what sustains our entire economy.
“It’s not for us to get involved in what the British people decide to do, we can only point out the potential impact to us.
“And if there is no deal the impact could be that we would have to pay tariffs: six percent for squid and up to 18 percent for other fish.
“That would be of significant consequence.”
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