As the United Kingdom Government’s Ministers of State responsible for our Overseas Territories (OTs), a priority for us, and for the entire Government, has been to work closely with Territory leaders to identify the opportunities and concerns in each OT associated with Brexit.
You will be aware of the recent General Election in the United Kingdom, the resulting new dynamics in the United Kingdom’s Parliament and the decisive action of the Prime Minister to press ahead with Brexit. The United Kingdom is set to leave the EU on 31 January with a deal – the Prime Minister’s newly negotiated Withdrawal Agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement provides for an implementation period lasting until 31 December 2020, a time-limited period of transition before Brexit-related changes take place. We want to take this opportunity to set out what this means for people and businesses in the OTs.
To summarise – during the implementation period, your rights and those of your family members will not change, and neither will the relationship OT companies and NGOs have with the EU.
Many of you may be thinking about how Brexit could affect your ability to travel or live abroad. Firstly, we would like to make clear that eligibility criteria for British passports of all types will not be affected by our departure from the EU. Secondly, the rules on travelling to the EU will remain the same throughout the implementation period. This means British Citizen passport holders will be able to continue to live, work and study in the EU as they do now. The rights of British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) passport holders – including 90-day visa-free access to the Schengen area in any 180 days – will also not change, either during the implementation period or afterwards.
We fully understand the importance of EU funding for a number of organisations in the Territories. That is why the United Kingdom Government had agreed to cover EU-funded projects in the OTs under EDF, BEST, Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ if the EU were to cease payments. As part of the Prime Minister’s deal, there is no longer any risk of this: projects in the OTs under these funding streams will continue to be covered by the EU for their duration.
Businesses in the OTs exporting goods to the EU27 will continue to be able to export tariff and quota-free for the duration of the implementation period. Tariff and quota-free access to the United Kingdom market for OT goods will continue indefinitely. While post-2020 access to the EU27 market is a matter for the upcoming negotiations on the Future Partnership, the United Kingdom Government is absolutely committed to seeking the best possible access for OT goods as part of our future relationship with the EU. During these negotiations the United Kingdom Government will also work to ensure that any post-2020 mobility arrangements agreed with the EU consider the specific needs and requirements of the OTs.
We want to both assure you and to leave you in no doubt that the United Kingdom is absolutely committed to the safety and prosperity of each of our British OTs. Brexit is no exception to this. As we head into the next phase of the negotiations and take up the opportunities afforded by our departure from the EU, including the ability to negotiate our own trade agreements around the world, the continuing priority for the United Kingdom Government is to ensure that the voices of our OTs are heard. And that your priorities inform our approach to the negotiations every step of the way.