Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK says the Island will need to draw on the strength of its external relationships to protect its position in the wake of yesterday’s referendum vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
The outcome means the Isle of Man will have to seek a replacement for its Protocol 3 relationship with the EU, which allows free trade in manufactured goods and agricultural products.
There will be no immediate change, however, as the UK’s withdrawal and the negotiation of new relationships with the EU, including the successor to Protocol 3, is expected to take at least two years.
Protocol 3, as an attachment to the UK Treaty of Accession, is dependent on the UK’s membership of the EU and will come to an end when it finally leaves.
Mr Bell commented:
‘The Brexit vote is the start of a journey into the unknown for both the UK and the Isle of Man, as this situation is without precedent. The potential implications are far reaching and could impact on the structure of the UK itself as well as the future of Europe.
‘Fortunately the Island is well prepared for this journey and our reputation and relationships externally are stronger than ever before. We have built up a network of good relations and contacts in London and Brussels, in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and with our fellow Crown Dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey.
‘We will need to draw on the strength of these relationships and work hard to maintain them, while remaining relentlessly vigilant in the defence of our Island’s national interests.’
The Chief Minister continued:
‘Much will depend on what new economic arrangement the UK can negotiate with the EU, and how the Isle of Man as a Crown Dependency can fit into that framework. We will have to stay very close to the negotiations to ensure that the Island’s needs are known and protected.’
The Government has already been active in promoting awareness of the Isle of Man’s position, and in gathering information and intelligence both on and off the Island. In April this year the Council of Ministers published its first interim report on the potential consequences of Brexit for the Island, with contributions from across Government.
The second report was issued last week, setting out how a new relationship between the UK and the EU might function, as well as explaining how other small European jurisdictions manage their relationships with the EU.
Mr Bell concluded:
‘The UK’s decision to leave the European Union is likely to have a serious and long-lasting effect on the economy and politics of both Britain and Europe.
‘Although the Isle of Man is not part of the EU, the UK’s withdrawal will nevertheless have a significant impact on the Island. We need to work closely with UK politicians and senior officials to ensure that we understand the UK’s direction of travel, and that they understand the implications for us. It will be vital that our interests are not overlooked.’