Frustration mounts in the Falklands over Brexit | Polarjournal
Currently, the Falkland Islands economy is facing a fierce wind from the EU. As a result of Brexit, between 6 and 42 per cent tariffs have been added to products that have played a large part in the islands’ economic recovery. This makes the products massively more expensive and less competitive. Photo: Annina Egli

Brexit, which is supposed to free the UK “from the shackles of the EU” (O-tone supporters), has now been in force for just under a month. After some hard discussions, an agreement on the economic relationship with the EU was reached on the night of December 31. But this agreement does not apply to all parts of the kingdom. The Falkland Islands, as an overseas territory, now faces high tariffs and duties on its products to the EU. And despite repeated attempts to avert them, they are not being listened to by the government in London. As a result, frustration has risen massively in recent weeks.

Already one week after the separation from the EU had been finally completed, members of the local parliament wrote their frustration and disappointment in an open letter. “Firstly, it is important to put on record how disappointed and frustrated we are that the deal between the UK and the EU makes no provision for the Falkland Islands or the other Overseas Territories. As a result, our EU exports are now subject to tariffs.” reads the beginning of the letter, which was printed by Penguin News. The MLAs go on to list the steps they had taken in the past to prevent the Falkland Islands being overlooked or forgotten about in the Brexit negotiations. They also state about the overwhelming amount of support. But in the end it was all in vain. “Unfortunately, despite our best and sustained efforts, the UK Government was unable to secure an agreement on our behalf.” the authors conclude.

Fishing is the most important branch of trade in the Falkland Islands. However, meat and wool are other export goods that have been shipped to the EU. With Brexit, not only have tariffs increased, but also the administrative burden of being able to deliver products to the EU area. Image: CFIG

But it is not only politicians who are disappointed by the government’s failures in London. The fishing association had also expected more. FIFCA had already warned in an article in mid-December against leaving the Falkland Islands out in the cold. The economic consequences would be immediate and cause massive damage. This is because, in addition to the tariffs, which amount to 6 to 18 percent, the administrative costs have also increased several times over. And fishermen in the South Atlantic are not alone in this. Fishermen based in the UK are also very unhappy with the agreement. In their opinion, the government had made too many concessions to the EU. In fact, fisheries was one of the most contentious issues and one of the reasons for the near failure of the negotiations. This is of little comfort to the fishermen of the Falkland Islands. Their products will hardly be competitive on the European market because of the tariffs. The same applies to meat producers, whose products are subject to tariffs of up to 42 percent.

In his traditional Christmas speech, Boris Johnson promised Falkland Islands residents help in dealing with Brexit-induced problems. But so far this help has failed to materialize. Image: Ben Shread / Cabinet Office, OGL 3 via Wikimedia Commons

When, just before Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had the traditional Christmas address to the Falklands published, only a small part was devoted to Brexit. In it he blamed the EU for excluding the overseas territories from the negotiations on the one hand; on the other he promised help in the post-Brexit period. But this help has so far failed to materialise. The letter was even described as “condescending” in an editorial by Managing Editor Lisa Watson of the Penguin News newspaper, and that it had felt like “being treated like children”. In the letter the author also finds clear words regarding the feeling caused by the non-respect of the Falkland Islands: “Shitty and unjust”.

The people of the Falkland Islands have always been struggling. Be it against the weather and the elements on the windswept islands or against occupiers as in the 1982 conflict: giving in is not one of their characteristics. Picture: Michael Wenger

“The great irony is we’ll probably weather it better than the UK will.”

Lisa Watson, Managing Editor Penguin News.

But both in their editorial and in the letter from the MLAs, one strength of the Falkland Islanders is clear: there is no giving up. While the MPs write that there will be no giving up and that “no stone is left unturned in securing the removal of these tariffs (…)”, the opinion of Managing Editor Lisa Watson is: “The great irony is we’ll probably weather it better than the UK will.” And anyone who knows the character of the inhabitants on the South Atlantic archipelago knows that she might be even right.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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