“European funding has been of considerable importance to our islands over the past 40 years,” Council Leader James Stockan
A tourism conference in Orkney next week, 26th of November, will be discussing the implications of Brexit on this major contributor to the local economy. LEADER funded Destination Orkney has a membership of 500 local businesses in addition to the national players in the sector. Most significant with be the ending of free movement, border checks, medical insurance and the fall in the value of the £ – the latter may actually make Orkney a more desirable destination.
Orkney Looks North
Orkney Islands Council is looking at the wider implications of the UK leaving the EU on March 29th 2019. It plans to forge stronger links with more northerly nations and islands having had discussions at the Nordic Council and the Arctic Assembly. The council believes that Brexit is a considerable challenge for Orkney especially as the islands receive a significant amount of funding from the EU both directly and indirectly. Despite this OIC thinks that there are also new opportunities to be found in stronger links with our northern neighbours.
James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council said:
“Considerable challenges lie ahead. But we are taking a proactive approach on a number of fronts, with the intention of securing a strong and prosperous future for Orkney.”
“Whatever agreement – or non-agreement – is reached, Brexit will have considerable consequences for Orkney, our community and the Council itself.
“Rather than wait and see, we are actively exploring new links and economic opportunities that could complement or replace some of the sources of European funding that have so benefitted our community over four decades.”
EU Nationals in Orkney
James Stockan has emphasised his support for EU nationals to stay in Orkney. It is not yet known how many council employees are EU nationals. Throughout Scotland EU nationals make up a significant number of workers in care work and the NHS.
A Special Deal for the Islands?
Many readers will have heard of the City Region Deals. These are funded by the Scottish and UK Governments working with local authorities: Glasgow City Region Deal, Aberdeen City Region Deal, Inverness and Highland City Region Deal, Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal and Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. Future deals being worked on are Tay Cities Region and the Borderlands.
The Islands Act ensured certain powers would come the way of the 3 Island Authorities but they are now considering proposing an Islands Deal.
“The islands Councils are actively pursuing a United Kingdom Government formal announcement of an Islands Deal in the Spring Statement, March 2019. As part of this process, a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy has been developed to help clarify the main project stakeholders and specify the means of engagement as the detail of the Islands Deal is developed. For example, the Islands Councils were represented at the recent Conservative and Labour party conferences.” Brexit_Preparations
The Shared Prosperity Fund
The loss of European funding on leaving the EU will not happen immediately with some funding being available till 2020. OIC has been engaged in discussions with the UK Government on a Shared Prosperity Fund. The Shared Prosperity Fund was announced at the Tory Party Conference and a manifesto commitment.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have produced a report on it: Shared Prosperity Final Report . It states:
“The funding and design of the promised UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be created with money repatriated from the EU after Brexit”
OIC is seeking clarity on which EU funds the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will replace. The UK Government have stated that it will operate across the UK “especially in those parts of our country whose economies are furthest behind. “
Orkney’s farming sector has benefitted as a member of the EU both in the subsidies it received as a Less Favoured Area and protected named status for Orkney Beef, Orkney Lamb (PDOs) and Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar (PGI). As Orkney no longer has an abattoir both Orkney Beef and Orkney Lamb have already lost their PDO status because those animals have to be reared and slaughtered on Orkney to get that quality brand. Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar will lose its PGI when we leave the EU, unless the UK Government introduces a scheme with the same international recognition as the EU scheme.
Farming subsidies will continue to 2019 but at 80% of the current level – this has been guaranteed by the Scottish Government. It is still not known what will happen after that but DEFRA have announced that farming payments will change and they will not be linked to the Barnett Formula (part of the Devolution settlement). DEFRA Minister Michael Gove sees leaving the EU as an opportunity to change the way the agricultural industry operates in the UK.
As with agriculture little is still known about the impact of Brexit on fishing given that the EU is the largest market for Orkney’s quality shellfish. If there is a no deal Brexit there will also be considerable hold ups at border crossing points affecting the transportation of the fisheries products. How to Prepare if the UK Leaves the EU with No Deal: Fishing
OIC has been meeting with those in the industry looking at the issues affecting the fisheries sector.
The council’s report can be read here: Brexit_Preparations
Reporter: Fiona Grahame