Will the UK government support its Overseas Territories in face of loss of EU funding?
The House of Lords EU Committee has today written to David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, to ask for assurances that the Government will cover funding gaps faced by the UK's Overseas Territories if they no longer have access to European Development Fund (EDF) funding after Brexit.
The Committee stress that the Overseas Territories in the Caribbean including Anguilla – where EDF funding accounts for 36% of the total capital budget – the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, will now face a particularly acute need to access significant reconstruction funds following the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Irma.
The Committee points out that many Overseas Territories do not qualify for UK overseas aid and ask whether the Government would consider continued EDF funding for the Overseas Territories even if it meant continued UK contributions to the EU budget.
The Committee have taken evidence on the impact of Brexit on the Overseas Territories from Premiers, Chief Ministers and other representatives of Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Tristan da Cunha and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It found that Brexit will impact the islands in diverse and challenging ways.
As well as the potential loss of EU development funding, Brexit will also impact the Overseas Territories in their ability to trade with the EU. The Falkland Islands, Pitcairn Islands, Anguilla and Tristan da Cunha all rely heavily on exports to the EU. The Committee calls on the UK Government to ensure their EU bound exports will not be subject to tariffs or other trade barriers due to Brexit.
Many Overseas Territories also rely on cooperation with their nearest neighbours to provide health services and access to transport links and other services. Many of those neighbours are territories of other EU Member States. The Committee asks the Government to explain the steps it is taking to ensure that cooperation can be maintained after Brexit.
The Committee also calls on the Government to ensure the Overseas Territories are appropriately consulted and involved in the Brexit process and are able to participate fully in future post-Brexit trading opportunities.
Commenting Lord Jay, acting Chairman of the Lords EU Committee and author of the letter to David Davis, said:
“The dreadful scenes we have witnesses across the Caribbean in the last week are a reminder of the duty of care the UK owes to its Overseas Territories.
“Some of the islands devastated by Hurricane Irma rely heavily on EU money through the European Development Fund to support their infrastructural development. We heard that 36% of Anguilla's capital budget comes from EDF funding – that will be needed more now than ever. We are asking David Davis whether the Government is prepared to continue making contributions to the EU budget after Brexit to ensure EDF funding is not lost. If the Overseas Territories can no longer access EU funding the Government will need to think seriously about how that loss is covered.
“We also heard that many of the UK's Overseas Territories are reliant on trade links with the EU, and work closely with neighbours who are territories of other EU Member States to provide services and access to transport links. We are asking the Government to provide reassurance that these important connections will not be damaged by Brexit.”