ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI – Virgin Islands (VI) Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), has warned of the implications of BREXIT on the territory, which takes effect from today January 1, 2021.
With the people of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union in June 2016 by a referendum, the transitional period of the exit official came to an end on December 31, 2020, and according to Hon Fahie in a statement released on the same evening, the VI should brace for several changes moving forward.
Free movement across EU comes to an end
With regards to travel and freedom of movement, the Premier noted that 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 travelling as Tourists will now have visa-free travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period while travelling within the Schengen Area,” Hon Fahie said.
As such, persons planning longer stays for work, to study, or to conduct business in the EU, would have to check entry requirements for each country and should be prepared to answer questions regarding the reasons for their visit and their financial capacity to sustain themselves while in Europe.
VI not covered under UK/EU tariff-free trade
Regarding trade, the Premier said that 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.”
He said, however, that the VI and other Overseas Territories had non–reciprocal access to the EU market, therefore, 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 EU development funds cut
Finally, with regards to access to development funds, he said the Virgin Islands has long enjoyed a politically beneficial relationship with the European Union through its 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.”
The Premier said that while existing projects will be allowed to continue, the Virgin Islands and other British Overseas Territories will no longer have access to any future funding support from the EU for sustainable development beginning Today, January 1, 2020.
VI/UN cooperation to address funding gaps
According to the Leader of Government Business, “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.”
He said in terms of replacement of EU funding, the territory has taken steps to strengthen relations and cooperation with the United Nations to advance the sustainable development of the Territory.