EXCL Caribbean island of Anguilla warns Brexit could spell 'disaster' for its future
Brexit could “end in disaster” for a British island in the Caribbean which relies on a neighbouring French territory for supplies, the Government has been warned.
Anguilla’s mission in the UK said it was facing a “series of risks” arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union.
The island, which has a population of 15,000, receives financial support from the EU, including €14m from the European Development Fund.
With no international airport, Anguilla depends on St Martin, a neighbouring island which is half-Dutch and half-French, for supplies and services.
The territory’s representative to the UK told PoliticsHome the circumstances meant Anguilla was in a “unique and arguably risky position as a result of Brexit”.
Blondel Cluff said the border with St Martin closed at 10pm every evening – “effectively cutting Anguilla off from the rest of the world” – and that the situation could “easily deteriorate further” depending on the development of talks between the UK and EU on free movement of goods and people.
The Anguillan government is calling on the UK to provide support to make it less reliant on its EU neighbours in the long-term by funding developments to its airport, port and hospital facilities.
Ms Cluff said: “Last year Anguilla was not given a voice in a referendum that will define its relationships with those it relies on for its survival, but has pledged to support the decision of its fellow British citizens and support the UK throughout Brexit and its aftermath.
“The question is whether the UK will do the same for Anguilla.”
One short-term alternative floated in the Anguillan white paper is for British Overseas Territories to obtain “associate membership” of the EU on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, enabling it to continue to receive development funds from Brussels.
Christina Scott, until recently the island’s governor appointed by the Foreign Office, told The Anguillan newspaper the relationship between Anguilla and St Martin would “not be affected by Brexit and there will not be an impact on how people move between our islands”.
But Ms Cluff called for further action from London to reduce Anguilla’s reliance on its neighbours.
“Whilst we commend the aspirations for the local relationships, the impact of Brexit upon them lies firmly in the hands of those negotiating Brexit in Brussels and, in the absence of the UK speaking out on behalf of its territory at the negotiating table, could so easily end in disaster for the British territory,” she said.
“The risks are magnified by the fact that the territory receives practically all of its developmental aid from the EU, and is ineligible for direct support from the UK of a similar magnitude.
“With a basic thirty-two bed hospital catering for the needs of its 15,000 British citizens, and 80,000 annual visitors, limited diagnostics and secondary medical services, a short airport runway and underdeveloped port, the island has been dependent upon its relationship with Europe as a whole for its very survival with no other options in sight.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “We are engaging closely with the overseas territories and will continue to make sure their interests are taken into account.”