Councillor Lawson Henry attended the first UK Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations (JMC OT EN) on 7 February 2017, with Kedell Worboys MBE, the SHG UK Representative, in London, to discuss the implications of Brexit on the OTs and their priorities for negotiations.
Councillor Henry represented both St Helena and Ascension Island at the meeting (see photo attached).
In his intervention, Councillor Henry called for the Department of Exiting the EU (DEXEU) to recognise the impact of Brexit in OTs. He spoke about the drop in value of the Great British Pound against other currencies, like the South African Rand, and the impact it has on the cost of living on St Helena and Ascension who rely heavily on imports. Councillor Henry added that due to the devaluation, the value of the allocation of the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) would significantly decrease, which would have an adverse impact on the Islands in terms of projects to be implemented.
Councillor Henry also mentioned the potential of St Helena with regards to international trade, using coffee and fish as examples of exports that could grow our economy. He also touched on our Tourism Industry, referencing France as an important market due to the Napoleonic connection.
Under the 11th EDF, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha have been allocated €21.5m (£18.3m). St Helena’s allocation has been earmarked to improve telecommunications connectivity to the Island in the form of a marine cable. Councillor Henry highlighted the importance of the EDF for Ascension as this is the only external source of funding available to them.
Councillor Henry commented at the meeting:
“In view of the significant impact of the EDF allocations, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) is asked to continue to provide the same level of funding when the EDF ceases. HMG is also asked to confirm that OTs would continue to have a first call on UK Aid budget to meet their reasonable needs and therefore be treated as a priority for aid.”
It was agreed that the next political meeting would be held in June and meetings at official level would continue.
Following the JMC OT EN, Lord Foulkes hosted a reception, sponsored by SHELCO, with many Lords and Members of Parliament in attendance. Vince Thompson played a key role in organising the event.
MP for Sutton Coldfield and Chair of the St Helena All Party Parliamentary Group, Andrew Mitchell, attended the reception. He gave a heart-warming speech – speaking positively about St Helena Airport and his continuing support for the project and the Island.
Kedell, along with St Helena Tourism’s Helena Bennett and Juliette Williams, were also able to engage with MPs and promote the Island.
In his key note speech at the reception, Councillor Henry spoke about the positive progress St Helena has made in line with our rebranding as ‘The Secret of the South Atlantic’ – focusing on History & Heritage, Adventure, and Natural Beauty.
Councillor Henry expressed his disappointment on the delay in commercial flights to the island but stated that the decision by HMG to fund the Airport project is still the right one. He also commented on the continued preparation of St Helena ahead of the anticipated increase in Tourism.
Councillor Henry concluded his speech:
“Much development has taken place and much progress has been made on St Helena, but we still have some way to go. I look forward to your continued support.”
1 March 2017