Puerto Argentino / Stanley, United Kingdom | AFP | by Barnaby CHESTERMAN
Even though they are 12,000 kilometers from London, the Falkland Islands fear the effects of Brexit, which could hit their vital meat and fish industries and leave their incredible biodiversity stranded.
While the government of Boris Johnson and the European Union argue to try to reach an agreement before October 31, the conservationists of this territory in the south Atlantic of 3,400 inhabitants, known in English as the Falklands, do not hide their concern.
For them, Brexit can mean the loss of a precious source of EU funding.
Esther Bertram, executive director of the NGO Falklands Conservation, says that the United Kingdom must take responsibility for the wildlife of its overseas territory, an archipelago whose main island is located 470 kilometers off the coast of Argentina, which continues to claim sovereignty of the entire territory.
“Don’t forget that the UK’s most fabulous wildlife is here,” he tells AFP. “Here come the endangered sei whales; we have the largest populations of black-browed albatrosses, we have five (species of) penguins, southern elephant seals. It is an extraordinary natural environment.”
According to his government, about 90% of the UK’s biodiversity is found in overseas territories.
In recent years, the Falklands, which have full government autonomy, have received some 600,000 euros through the EU’s BEST program, which aims to protect ecosystems in remote regions and overseas European countries and territories.
Bertram, 45, wonders how such a deficit will be made up after Brexit.
“There has been no guarantee that in the future we will be able to access EU funding. We believe that the UK government is as committed to its biodiversity in overseas territories as anywhere else,” he says.
The two main industries in the Falklands – fishing and meat – could be adversely affected by a Brexit with no deal or even a bad deal, says Leona Roberts, one of the eight members of the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands.
Fishing accounted for 43% of Malvinas GDP between 2007 and 2016, and 89% of fish exports in 2018 were made to the EU.
“We currently benefit from a tariff and quota waiver, and if this changes, we would be in a very difficult situation with a significant drop in government revenue,” says Roberts.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs range from 6 to 18%. The Falkland government estimates that a no-deal exit would be equivalent to a 16% drop in fishing profits.
The meat industry, which relies primarily on family farms, could also be significantly impacted, although the majority of Falkland beef and lamb is shipped to the UK.
“There is a potential collateral effect there if tariffs and quotas are introduced,” explains Roberts.
If less UK-produced meat is sold to EU countries, less will need to be imported from the Falklands, posing “the risk of job losses,” he added.
The Malvinas government estimates that annual losses in this sector could reach up to 30%.
The inhabitants of the archipelago could not vote in the Brexit referendum. The islands are not part of the United Kingdom, and therefore not part of the EU, but as an overseas territory they benefit from the customs union.
Another productive sector, the virgin wool sector, seems less threatened as it is an untaxed segment, said Keith Alazia, manager of the Goose’s Green farm, located on the island of Gran Malvina and one of the 92 farms that host half of the islands on the islands. million sheep.
But the Falklands have other concerns as well. “It is said that … our medicines are going to be more expensive,” says Joanne Baigorri, 27, an employee of the only local bank.
Gabi McRae, a Chilean who works at the Falkland Islands Meat Company, says she has already noticed the effect of a weaker pound.
“A few years ago, when it changed, a pound was equal to 1,000 Chilean pesos. Now it is only 600-700,” says this 31-year-old woman.
Roberts, however, feels that whatever happens, the “natural pragmatism and caring spirit” of the islanders will help them find a way to survive.