By Dickson Igwe, Contributor
Brexit presents a dilemma for Virgin Islands politics during a month of general elections.
How does Brexit affect the Virgin Islands? Will Brexit happen? And if Brexit takes place will Brexit be sustainable in an aging Britain that is changing demographically?
OK. Be in no doubt. Brexit is a civil war in the UK. The reason why blood has not been spilt is the simple fact the UK remains a free democracy with solid legal and political institutions that can absorb the anger and bitterness that Brexit has generated. Britain is to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. Whether this will indeed happen is unclear.
The divisions in British politics on Brexit are unbridgeable. The divisions on the UK high street are equally implacable. Most British citizens hold strong views on Britain leaving the UK. Enemies have been made, families separated, and even violent attacks on UK citizens leading to injury and death have taken place over Brexit, including the assassination of a Member of Parliament.
But look beneath the smoke and fog and a few facts can be ascertained.
Brexit an English affair
First, Brexit is mainly an English affair. Brexit is also driven by white working men and their toffee-nosed public schoolboy masters. British Liberals, Minorities, and UK citizens of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland overwhelmingly want to remain a part of the European Union.
Gibraltar, a UK Overseas Territory (OT) sitting of the Spanish shores of the Mediterranean is strongly pro-Europe and wants to remain in Europe big business is clearly against Brexit, as head offices of UK companies migrate elsewhere in droves. For the Virgin Islander to understand Brexit the use of analogy is appropriate.
The European Union is a loose confederation of states. Confederation is a powerful economy of over 500 million people. Britain is part of the confederation and enjoys privileges, and contributes financially to this confederation. Britain leaving can be compared to Virginia leaving the USA. Who wins and who loses? Virginia of course: the reason being, Virginia will no longer enjoy the economies of scale of being part of the USA economy and market. Citizens of Virginia will no longer be US citizens.
Citizens of Virginia will be under the tutelage of US immigration services. Citizens of Virginia will no longer have access to the US job market.
Businesses in Virginia will have to pay customs tariffs and other unseen economic costs as Virginia is no longer part of the USA. The present border between the UK and Ireland sits at the extreme end of Northern Ireland which is a country in the UK.
Presently there is no border between the UK and Ireland. With Brexit there will be a hard border. This can be compared with the border between the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands which is a hard border. A hard border between the UK and Ireland will be devastating for the people in the region.
Again the analogy with the US and British Virgin Islands is appropriate. The peoples of the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands share a similar culture, religion and ethnicity.
However, the hard border between the two island chains is a great barrier between the two peoples. The UK – Ireland border does not exist presently as the UK and Ireland are countries in a loose confederation called the European. After March 29, there will be a hard border and there will be security and customs checks, such as exists between the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands.
The term ‘back stop’ is an arrangement where after March 29 the border between Ireland and the UK will remain the same as at present: a non- existent border. However, for this to happen Britain will have to remain in the EU’s Customs Union which essentially means that the UK will remain in Europe, but without any ‘say’ in the matters of Europe.
UK Overseas Territoires to lose privileges
The Overseas Territories are presently a part of the European Union. Holders of United Kingdom European passports can live and work anywhere in the European Union of 28 states. However, after March 29, the Overseas Territories will no longer possess that right and privilege. Citizens of OTs will only be able to live and work in the UK.
And in a UK with a severely damaged economy caused by Brexit will not be able to offer the same type of benefits and privileges being in a confederation of 28 states offers.
In other words, the status of citizens of OTs who hold UK-EU passports globally will be degraded severely. Matters such as European grants and access to Europe’s tourism markets are also ‘’up in the air. ‘’ The preceding is why Brexit matters in this British Virgin Islands February 25, General Election.
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