Brexit is a journey that Britain and its Overseas Territories must embark on together

Brexit is a journey that Britain and its Overseas Territories must embark on together

On June 23rd the United Kingdom made the monumental decision to leave the European Union. However, the United Kingdom is a family which not only includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but also the Overseas Territories too. The result of the UK’s negotiations with the EU will have implications for the citizens of our Overseas Territories which means that Brexit is now a journey that the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories must embark on together.

The Overseas Territories have been divided in their opinions towards Brexit, with Dr Orlando Smith, Premier and minister of finance for the British Virgin Islands stating that “following constructive discussions in recent weeks about Brexit negotiations, the British Virgin Islands-UK partnership is stronger than ever”. On the other hand, Gibraltar, an overseas territory that voted 96% to remain within the EU, is worried about the impact Brexit will have on its flourishing economy built around financial services and e-commerce – economic activity based heavily on the single market and free movement, with most of its workforce – 10,000 Spanish and other EU nationals – commuting across the border.

Former Premier Rufus Ewing of the Turks and Caicos Islands noted that the European Union has played a substantial role in the development of the Overseas Territories in recent years, with the Turks and Caicos Islands being a particular beneficiary of significant funding channelled through the European Development Fund. Without this funding, the Islands could suffer a significant loss in economic growth, while they are also concerned about the impact of the potential loss of freedom of movement which they associated with employment. However, the former Premier has said that it is still too early to gauge the impact that Brexit will have on the Islands, and his successor, Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, intends to be heavily involved with all discussions regarding the Overseas Territories and leaving the EU.

UK ministers have already held meetings in a new forum dedicated to discussing the implications of Brexit with and for the Overseas Territories and it is important going forwards that the Overseas Territories are involved in the Brexit negotiations. Recent developments in the negotiations have seen Spain try to pursue its own agenda on Brexit. Gibraltar could be the make-or-break issue in a Brexit deal, which is why it is important that this matter is taken seriously in order for a truly successful deal to be made. Various Overseas Territories have already expressed their interest in being involved with negotiations. For example, the Bermudan Government stated that they respect the decision of the British people and will work alongside the UK Government to ensure the interests of Bermuda and fellow British Overseas Territories are upheld throughout the negotiation process as they prepare for the UK to formally leave the EU.

It appears that although many Overseas Territories face uncertainty, there are optimistic views coming to the foreground. Various members of the Bermudan firm’s insurance practice have said that Bermuda “will become an even greater, accessible rival reinsurance hub than ever before, attractive to capital markets and investors.” Alongside this, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin reminded legislative assembly members that “the sound financial position of the Cayman Islands Government and the growing strength of our economy make us an excellent option for businesses and investors looking for a safe haven amid the current political and economic turmoil.” And the Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo stated that “Gibraltar will pay any price, bear any burden and meet any hardship in the context of ensuring we have a future that is bright and exclusively British post-Brexit.”

It is clear that the UK Government is committed to engaging with the Overseas Territories as they prepare to exit the EU. However, it is important that the Overseas Territories get a deal that works for them, to ensure that the strong connection between the UK and its Overseas Territories is maintained. In this context, it is also important that they discuss how the Territories can contribute to a truly global Britain.

Overall, I believe that Brexit could be the beginning of an ever closer partnership between the UK and the Overseas Territories as they could facilitate UK trade by channeling UK capital into developing markets which can encourage economic development and boost the overall economic growth. The strong history that the Overseas Territories share with the UK is something that must be maintained and Brexit is just another journey that will undoubtedly show just how strong our relationship is.