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FISHING

How Brexit threatens Falklands’ economy…and Spanish fishermen

A no-deal Brexit would deal a severe blow to the economy of Britain's Falkland Islands which is heavily dependent on squid exports -- and to Galicia in Spain where almost all of the molluscs are sent.

How Brexit threatens Falklands' economy...and Spanish fishermen
Photos: AFP

Fully 94 percent of the catch, mostly squid, exported from the contested South Atlantic archipelago known to Argentina as the Malvinas and occupied by Britain since 1833, is sent to the port of Vigo in northwestern Spain, some 13,000 kilometres (8,000 miles) away.

There the squid are processed or shipped directly to other European nations. About a third of the squid eaten in continental Europe comes from the Falklands, according to the archipelago's government.

Fishing accounts for 40 percent of the economic output of the island group which was at the heart of two-month war between Britain and Argentina in 1982. And Galician trawlers staffed mainly with Spaniards dominate the sector.

This trade is profitable because no customs tariffs are slapped on the squid since both Britain and Spain belong to the European Union — but that would end if Britain leaves the bloc without any agreements in place about what their relationship would be in the future.

In that case World Trade Organization (WTO) custom tariff which range from six to 18 percent depending on the nature of the product would apply, according to Richard Hyslop, senior policy advisor to the Falkland Islands government.

“It's critical that we retain our tariff-free access (with the EU),” Teslyn Barkman, who is in charge of managing natural resources and Brexit related issues with the archipelago's government, told AFP by telephone, adding it was a “life or death” issue for the Falkland's economy.

Rush shipments 

Fearing a no-deal Brexit before an initial March 29 deadline for Britain to leave the EU, fishing firms rushed three ships with 21,000 tonnes of squid to Vigo to try to avoid paying hefty customs duties.

Galician trawlers also worry a no-deal Brexit would mean they lose access to Britain's fishing waters.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May last week asked fellow EU leaders to postpone Brexit for a second time, from April 12 to October 31, giving London a chance to negotiate an exit deal — and the three trawlers loaded with squid more time to reach Galicia.

The first trawler to arrive began unloading its cargo in Vigo this weekend.

“We create jobs, wealth” but “there is total uncertainty, we don't know what will happen to the Spanish fleet” if there is a no-deal Brexit,” said Javier Touza, the president of fishing vessel owners' cooperative Arvi at the port of Vigo.

“What we ask is that we can continue to fish. We have the biggest ships in the Galician fleet over there,” he added.

'Frustrating' 

Forty-three trawlers which belong to Arvi currently operate in the waters of the Falklands Islands.

Twenty-four fly the Spanish flag while the rest use the flag of the Falklands even though “the majority of their crew is Spanish and 100 percent of their cargo ends up in the port of Vigo,” said Touza.

The regional government of Galicia estimates around 1,700 crew members of fishing trawlers could be affected if Britain crashes out of the EU without a divorce deal.

This figure combines crew deployed on ships in the waters of the Falklands as well as those on the 66 trawlers that operate in British waters in Europe.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, fishermen who work in the waters of the Falklands are on track for another record haul of squid this year, after catching 78,913 tonnes in 2018.

The archipelago, which is also heavily dependent on sheep farming, is home to just 3,000 people — which is why it relies on Spanish fishing crews.

“Europe wants to buy, eat and enjoy our world quality premium calamari. It's frustrating to be in that position but it makes sense to keep that relationship,” said Barkman.

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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