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BVI told consider the bittersweet – join the ACP

 Dr Peter Clegg delivering his address at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College last evening

Dr Peter Clegg delivering his address at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College last evening

An senior lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England has told persons in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) that – in light of Brexit – the BVI should consider joining the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

Dr Peter Clegg last evening threw out the proposal, considering that ACP members currently have direct partnership with the European Union (EU), which is a group of 28 States located primarily in Europe.

That partnership allows those ACP members certain EU privileges in relation to free trade and access to the European Development Fund.

It is not clear if the BVI would be allowed those privileges fully, because – unlike current ACP members – it is not politically independent.

Further, the BVI – even if it joins the ACP – may not have certain privileges such as free movement within the EU. Currently, members of the ACP don’t have that benefit.

The BVI – through being a UK Overseas Territory – currently enjoys several privileges throughout the EU. Those include free movement, free trade, and access to the European Development Fund.

However, it is not yet clear how much longer those will be available, because the BVI’s mother country (UK) is leaving the EU through a process dubbed Brexit.

Negotiations regarding Brexit are ongoing between the UK and other EU members.

Looking at ways the BVI could attempt to cushion certain possible fallout from Brexit, Dr Clegg said: “If the EU and single market access is not secured [during the Brexit negotiations]…one possibility [for the BVI] is looking towards the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Group of Countries, and whether the UK-Overseas Territories could be apart of that grouping, and through that route gain some access to the EU market.”

“For ACP countries, they generally have free access [to the EU market]; they have some special protections for their small and medium-sized enterprises; they allow short-term visits for business people; and they allow access to the European Development Fund, which are funds by which funds at the moment are distributed to the [UK Overseas Territories,” added Dr Clegg, who was speaking in the BVI last evening during a lecture on ‘Brexit’ hosted by the H Lavity Stoutt Community.

The senior lecturer further reasoned: “On the downside, of course, at the moment, is that the ACP group are all independent states. It would require the agreement of not just the ACP, but the EU countries for the [UK] Overseas Territories to join such arrangements. And possibly, the UK Overseas Territories would lose some of their distinctiveness being part of a much larger ACP grouping.”

“Crucially, there is no free movement; so ACP states and their citizens do not have free movement rights across the European Union,” the senior lecturer added.

In addition to the uncertainty regarding whether the BVI would be allowed to access the EU market, Dr Clegg noted other implications the BVI may face if Britain is successful in its campaign to exit the EU.

Those negatives post-Brexit implications the BVI has been told to consider include the:

  • Risk that free movement across EU countries will end
  • End of access to the European Development Fund, which currently offers financial assistance to UK Overseas Territories
  • End of Policy Dialogue with the EU
  • The UK Overseas Territories negotiating hand becoming increasingly weaker internationally

Meanwhile, the H Lavity Stoutt Community College said Dr Clegg has extensive expertise on the European Union, UK Overseas Territories, the United Kingdom, and Brexit. He has published a paper on Brexit and the Overseas Territories entitled: Brexit and the Overseas Territories – Repercussions for the Periphery.

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