News : UK reassures commitment to the Pacific despite Brexit [20/10/2016 – Samoa]

UK reassures commitment to the Pacific despite Brexit

11:19 pm GMT+12, 20/10/2016, Samoa

The British High Commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa, Jonathan William  Rossiter Sinclair , has reaffirmed his country’s continuous commitment to the Pacific when the United Kingdom officially leaves the  European Union in 2020.
“The first and most important thing after the vote is that nothing has changed in the short term,” he told Talamua in Apia this week.
“The UK remains a member of the EU until 2020,” said Sinclair.
When the UK voted to leave the EU earlier this year, the Pacific leaders were quick to question the impact of this move  on the Pacific especially on the agreements that have already being endorsed through EU while the UK was a member.
Sinclair said while the UK is working towards 2020, she is working on several aspects that will “enforce and strength our relationship both with the Pacific directly and the UK, but also through EU.”

He said the UK is looking at four positive features for building and strengthening a strong relationship between the UK and the Pacific. These include:
The  EU Development fund which is the  primary tool of the EU and the UK to help countries in the Pacific which is about 600 million euros for the period between 2014 and 2020.”
“We have committed that our contribution to that money will be reinforced  and will be paid,  and so we  will be committing to that engagement until 2020,” said Sinclair.
“We pay about 15%  of that total sum  so that’s roughly 90 million euros for the Pacific.”
He also said that the UK is not going to resign from her commitments to the Pacific but committing to agreements already in place through grants.
High among these is ssistance through is climate change.
“Climate change is a global issue that leaders have addressed at every opportunity, and for the past years, the EU, UK and the South Pacific have worked closely on this issue.”
He believes that climate change remains a critical challenge to the Pacific.
“We worked closely at the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) conference in 2014, also last year at the run up to Paris  and a good deal was struck there,” said Sinclair.
“We will continue to abide by our obligations  and we look to ratify the Paris  agreement in the next few weeks, so we will be an earlier adopter of that one, and that agenda does not change. We are committed as the UK to leading the global debate and pushing countries to be ambitious, ” said Sinclair.
The third commitment is on bilateral  relationships, and the UK during the Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in Malta last year,  the UK committed to providing a bilateral programme to help the small island states within the Commonwealth.
“That assistance will be through using “hydrographic scientific expertise  to help them map the marine environment , and we are putting forward about 6 million pounds in  bilateral projects this year including one in Fiji, with the programme for  Samoa in the next 4/5 weeks.”
“Through the UK hydro project office we will help the island developing states  map their own marine environment, and  a better chance to understand  how to boost sustainable development while remaining true to environmental  responsibilities,” said Sinclair.
Sinclair said one negotiation is about the UK leaving the EU and how to disentangle UK and EU law, and what  will be the arrangement between UK and EU.
The other issue in this line of negotiation is updating UK’s members with the  World Trade Organisation (WTO), and also putting into place  new arrangements for third countries which the UK have already got existing  trade agreements with through the EU.
UK is the home to some of the Pacific best rugby players, and whilst His Excellency could guarantee any significant changes to the UK leaving EU on sports, he said he would  be “surprised if it made a huge difference.”
“What you often find is that sports people that come to the UK  to play top professional sport are given special visas and I haven’t seen anything about that changing,” he said.
“I don’t want to say it won’t change, then something happened, I’d be surprised if sports relationship is dramatically altered by the events of the last few months,” said Sinclair.
He further stated that there has always been an open visa regime  for individuals of real global significance and that goes for musicians, scientists, research people and sports people.
“For football, there is a whole sway of individuals from outside of the EU so I ’d be surprised for rugby or football that suddenly you saw a massive cracking down on the ability of some great Samoans to come and play English rugby  league.”
Asked whether he sees Scotland’s  wish for another referendum  as a threat, His Excellency referred to UK’s Prime Minister  Theresa May’s comment after the referendum, that  there was “no mandate  for another referendum.”
“Many members of EU are facing challenges such as economic and migration but I don’t think there are major parties in those countries  that are advocating for a referendum in the same way the UK has.”
Sinclair said the Government was very clear on the referendum vote.
“It was about leaving the EU, not leaving Europe,” he explained.
“It was not about suddenly raising the drawbridge and retreating behind the English channel.”
He said it was about global Britain  and an opportunity for Britain to double down in it’s dealing with the rest of the world.
“And that is evident in the establishment of the self standing department for international trade.”
He said Prime Minister May has made this a priority “as a free trading, big thinking resilient country.”
Sinclar said that was the instruction from the UK – to push the message on UK’s commitment after Brexit.


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