Statement on Brexit by Premier Fahie Regarding the End of the Transition Period

Statement on Brexit

By Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew A. Fahie regarding the End of the Transition Period

31st December, 2020

Good Day and God’s Blessings to all the people of the Virgin Islands. As the transition period for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union comes to an end tonight, I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a few of the implications of Brexit on the Virgin Islands, which are due to take effect from tomorrow, 1st of January, 2021.

Many will recall that the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 by a referendum. Today after four years of discussions, negotiations and uncertainty, the effects of this vote will begin to be felt.

As you know the United Kingdom officially left the European Union on 31st January, 2020 and entered into a transition period, while they negotiated the terms of the Future Relationship. In my statement to you on the 31st of January, 2020, I noted that, though the United Kingdom had officially left the European Union, the impacts of that decision would not be felt until the end of the transition period. I explained that negotiations on the UK’s future relationship would soon commence and following these negotiations, the implications for the Virgin Islands would become clearer.

Last week, on Christmas Eve, UK Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Boris Johnson confirmed that the UK and the EU had finally reached agreement on the terms of the Future
Relationship. The UK Parliament met last evening to debate and vote on the agreed Brexit Deal, which received Royal Assent overnight and became Law. The European Union has also signed off on the Deal and it is expected to be voted on by Members of the European Parliament, retroactively in the new year. After today, European Laws would no longer apply to the UK and the UK will now begin to be recognised as a distinctly separate regulatory space and jurisdiction.

As the transition period officially ends tonight at 11:00 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, 7:00 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time, I use this opportunity to highlight a few of the changes which will take effect from tomorrow, Friday 1st January, 2021.

Freedom of Movement will end

British Citizens will no longer retain the right to move freely across European Member States. Holders of British Passports and British Overseas Territories (BOTC) passports traveling as Tourists will now have visa free travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, while traveling within the Schengen Area.

Persons planning longer stays for work, to study, or to conduct business in the EU, are advised to check the requirements as they will be subjected to the immigration controls of each individual EU Member State.

Persons should be prepared to answer questions regarding the reasons for their visit and their financial capacity to sustain themselves while in Europe.  In this regard, British Citizens will now be required to meet the entry requirements set out by each individual country.

Persons travelling for work, secondment, or to study, may now be required to obtain a work permit or student visa for that country.

Holders of the burgundy UK passports, with the words ‘European Union’ on the cover, are advised that these passports will continue to be valid until the stated expiration date, and will be replaced with dark blue British Passport when submitted for renewal.

Trade

In regard to trade, the new UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement provides for tariff free and quota free trade in goods, between the UK and the EU. The Overseas Territories are not included in this arrangement however, with the exception of Tristan Da Cunha for the export of Lobster into the EU market. From 1st January, 2021, the other Overseas Territories will no longer enjoy tariff free and quota free access in the export goods to the EU Market.

As the BVI and other Overseas Territories had non–reciprocal access to the EU market, goods imported from the EU will not be affected.

The new UK-EU Trade and Cooperation agreement does not cover Trade in Services, including Financial Services, which will be addressed in a subsequent agreement at a later date. As the EU conducts trade with the BVI as a Third Country, the BVI’s trade in Services with the EU will not be affected by the new arrangement.

Access to the European Development Fundin

As a whole, the Virgin Islands has long enjoyed a politically beneficial relationship with the European Union through our Associate Status as one of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) directly associated with the bloc. Through this relationship the Virgin Islands has worked closely with the EU on European Development Fund (EDF) programming and other collaborative initiatives which have been used to tackle issues such as climate change, marine biodiversity and pursue renewable energy goals.

Following the Joint Ministerial Council meetings held at the end of November this year, it has been confirmed that while existing projects will be allowed to continue, the Virgin Islands and other British Overseas Territories will no long have access to any future funding support from the EU for sustainable development after today, when the transition period comes to an end.

My people of the Virgin Islands, the world is changing around us and we too must change and adapt. Despite the unfortunate implications of this reality on the Virgin Islands, your Government has been proactive in ensuring that we bridge the gaps left by Brexit.

In terms of the replacement of EU funding, we have taken steps to strengthen relations and cooperation with the United Nations to advance the sustainable development of the Territory.

On November 2nd, 2020, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Mr. Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands to deepen the level of cooperation with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This deepened cooperation will assist the Territory with the implementation of National Sustainable Development Plan toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. With the support and partnership of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC), the Territory is already in the process of advancing a National Sustainable Development Plan.

In addition, UN ECLAC has also agreed to co-chair a summit with the Virgin Islands of the regional commission’s 14 Associate Member Countries (AMCs) in 2021 that will focus on addressing the assistance gap to the AMCs as they strive to meet UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

We have also received support from the UN in response to the disruption caused by COVID-19 to the sustainable development agenda and the negative economic, social and health impacts of the global pandemic, as a part of its Multi-Sectoral Response Plan for the Eastern Caribbean. The Territory has also received approval for a grant of just over $350,000.00 from the UN’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund. These funds will contribute to the Government’s Income Support Programme established for those vulnerable persons financially impacted by COVID-19. This financial assistance will also be accompanied by technical assistance from UNICEF, the International Labour Organisation and the World Food Programme.

Member of the public may also recall that in November of this year, UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women collaborated with the Government of the Virgin Islands to produce a COVID-19 Human and Economic Assessment of Impact Report, commonly referred to as the (HEAT) Report, which has been used to help guide the local response to the pandemic.

People of the Virgin Islands, Your Government will continue to pursue new relationships to support the growth and development of these Islands in this moment of Global Change.   I want to reassure the public that the Government of the Virgin Islands remains laser focused and diligent in actions, to ensure that we grasp opportunities to protect and advance the interests of the people of the Virgin Islands during these unprecedented times.

May God continue to bless and protect the people of the Virgin Islands.

I thank you.

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