The British government says it tried but could not persuade the European Commission on a “future relationship that included the Overseas Territories.”
In a statement dated December 30th the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister for the European Neighbourhood, Wendy Morton, outlined several outstanding issues impacting the OTs from the Brexit agreement.
She stated: “Despite trying everything we could, the European Commission refused to negotiate a future relationship that included the OTs. We sought to change the Commission’s position, but it declined to engage.”
Despite that, the FCDO minister assured that "with the signing of the historic UK-EU trade agreement completed the UK Government affirms its unwavering support for all of our Overseas Territories (OTs).”
“We remain unwavering in our commitment to safeguarding their interests," she affirmed.
The UK and the European Union reached agreement on Christmas Eve over the thorny Brexit deal of the UK leaving the now 27-member bloc.
While, the statement by the (FCDO) Minister Morton only specifically mentioned Gibraltar, Tristan de Cunha, the Falkland Islands and the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus, it broadly sought to reassure Cayman and the nine other OTs which have been beneficiaries of EU aid and other programmes, which will now cease with Brexit.
“We will take into account any shortfalls that arose from the end of EU funding, as we plan future UK spending in the OTs. We will focus this funding on the greatest needs and to deliver the greatest impact," she said.
FCDO Minister Morton, who has the 'European Neighbourhood' portfolio, declared that "the OTs are a much-valued part of the whole British family and we will continue to do all we can to protect their interests.”
The last substantive UK Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, Baronness Liz Sugg resigned in November - coincidentally during the annual Joint summit of the UK and its OTs - in protest over the British government’s decision then to cut its foreign aid budget.
LAST-MINUTE GIBRALTAR DEAL
While much of the focus of Min. Morton's statement has been on Gibraltar, the only UK Overseas Territory that shares a land border with Spain - and by extension the EU - it was announced today (Old Year’s Day) that an agreement had been reached over that issue which has strained relations between the UK and Spain for decades.
The two countries have a long-standing border and territorial despite over Gibraltar.
The last-minute arrangement reached on Thursday, just hours before Brexit was due to take effect at midnight UK time, means that Gibraltar will remain in the EU’s Schengen free-movement area.
Thousands of Spanish workers cross the border daily to work in Gibraltar, and the British territory also heavily relies on tourism from Spain.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the special arrangement would "ensure border fluidity, which is clearly in the best interests of the people living on both sides".
Meanwhile, for the Falkland Islands which has a thriving fish export business with the EU, the UK said it will “continue to work closely with the Falkland Islands to manage the effects of new EU tariffs on their fish exports (including a 6% tariff on squid) while also helping the islands – and all of our OTs – to maximise the benefits of our newly independent trade policy.”
Regarding Tristan da Cunha, FCDO Minister Morley stated that “as the UK exits the transition period, Tristan da Cunha will continue to have tariff-free access to the EU market for its main export, lobster.”
The FCDO minister also reiterated a UK commitment to provide “extra support and reassurance to Overseas Territories excluded from the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”
“With the signing of the historic UK-EU trade agreement completed the UK Government affirms its unwavering support for all of our Overseas Territories (OTs),” she said.
Earlier, Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell who chairs the UK Parliament’s All-Party Committee on the Overseas Territories, expressed disappointment over the failure to conclude satisfactory arrangements for the OT’s as part of the Brexit agreement.
In a social media post, Mr Rosindell who supports the UK’s departure from the EU, wrote: “I am disappointed that vital issues relating to Gibraltar, our British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies were not fully settled as part of the overall agreement, despite clear promises that they would."
"No part of our great British family can be left behind!”, he declared, adding that, "These are battles I will continue to fight. There is unfinished business to be concluded!"