When you visit the Falkland Islands, you often hear that the weather changes quickly and sunhsine quickly changes into rainy weather. That probably is the way the administration of the British Overseas Territory must feel at the moment. For the British Overseas Territory’s demands to avoid tariffs on local fishery products in the current Brexit negotiations have fallen on deaf ears. The economy of the Falkland Islands is in danger of a financial debacle now if a solution is not found before the end of the year.
According to a report in the local newspaper Penguin News, the only newspaper in the Falkland Islands, the British government has made no effort on behalf of the Falkland Islands to the EU. A report by MLA Roger Edwards confirmed this. “When the UK attempted to speak on behalf of its overseas territories it was informed that this would not be allowed because the EU would not be speaking on behalf of other nations’ Overseas Territories within Europe.” cites the newspaper. “As such the Falklands fishery appeal against the imposition of tariffs on its fishery and other products has not been heard at all”, the newspaper concludes. If a solution is not found now, all Falkland Islands products to be sold in the EU will be subject to heavy tariffs and strict controls.
For months, the UK and EU negotiators have been struggling to find a solution to future economic relations. One of the points of contention is fisheries, which is a central and economically important issue for the United Kingdom. And that goes for the Falkland Islands, which, as a British Overseas Territory, have been able so far to sell their fishery products in the EU without tariffs under the umbrella of British EU membership. Fishing accounts for about 40 percent of Falkland Islands’ GDP and nearly 60 percent of public revenue, according to the Falkland Island Fishing Companies Association FIFCA. Squid and hake are particularly popular on the European market. FiFCA estimates that around one in two squid consumed in southern Europe comes from the Falkland Islands. To ensure sustainable and safe fishing, the administration in Port Stanley has also made massive investments in recent years and invested in brand new vessels.
The impending tariffs would mean heavy financial losses in the medium and long term. Experts estimate up to 18 percent tariffs on fishery products. This would render products so expensive that economic profitability is no longer guaranteed. The Falkland Islands administration sees an immediate need for action and has called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to address the issue directly. In a press release, it says the Falkland Islands are the UK Overseas Territory hit hardest by Brexit when it comes to trade. They propose five different scenarios to prevent the impending loss of up to EUR 11 million. Proposals include “applying for a continuation of duty- and quota-free trade in return for the extension of the status quo of fisheries access for EU member states,” “including the Falkland Islands in the 2021 negotiations with the EU” or “a request for UK government to propose a new settlement for UK and EU overseas territories”.
But this latest proposal is the most controversial point, as “would enable a ground roots conversation about the impact of the EU withdrawal on all affected nations at every level”, as the Falkland Island Government writes. At the moment, it is also clear to the British Government that the pack will be reshuffled from next year onwards. As it became known yesterday (December 7, 2020), Prime Minister Johnson wants to meet directly with EU President Ursula von der Leyen in order to resolve the pending issues and save a treaty. It is to be hoped that Johnson also has heard the concerns of his southernmost citizens and will not leave the Falkland Islands standing in the rain.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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