The Falklands and other overseas territories will be affected if we leave the EU. They were overlooked during the debate and Falkland Islanders weren’t even given a vote in the referendum. It’s time we started talking about what’s at stake.
The Falkland Islands’ fishing industry is more than half their economy, contributing in the region of 50-60% to its annual GDP. They sell their fish to Europe. The EU was the destination for around 94% of Falklands’ fisheries produce in 2017; loligo squid exports caught by Falkland flagged ships had a value of around £240 million. These sales depend on tariff and quota-free access to the EU market. Brexit risks the Falklands losing this, with a significant negative impact on its fishing industry.
If the Falklands has to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules post-Brexit, not only would paperwork and delays increase, but import tariffs would also rise from zero to between 6% and 18%.
Nor is it just the Falklands that will be affected if the current level of access to EU markets isn’t achieved by the UK government in Brexit negotiations — the Spanish city of Vigo would too. As most of the Falklands’ produce enters the EU through Port of Vigo in Spain, around 6,000 Spanish seafaring and supply chain jobs could be at risk. Spanish companies are worried their investment and efforts to cooperate with the Falklands could be lost.
This is why the government of the Falkland Island as well as companies and industry figures in the Falklands and in Spain are calling for the UK and EU to agree to maintain the status quo, ensuring they can continue to access resources and be exempt from customs tariffs. But if the UK government persists with its current intention to leave the customs union and single market, detrimental effects seem inevitable.
Some have suggested this problem could be solved by looking to other markets, but again this is difficult; though demand is high, competition is strong and there are political and tariff barriers to be negotiated.
Facing such a huge loss, especially with no deal, the Falklands could end up requiring high levels of government aid for the medium term. Another potential cost of Brexit for the UK government to consider.
The reality is that the Falklands did not even get a chance to vote in the EU referendum, despite being set to lose out if the UK leaves the EU. It’s time that the UK government started listening to their concerns and representing them in negotiations, ensuring they do not suffer from Brexit.