From natural disasters to Brexit: The UK gov should be doing all it can to help islands like Anguilla
11 September 2017
On Tuesday I met representatives from the small island community of Anguilla, a tiny British dependent territory struggling to get its voice heard about the impact of Brexit on its people and economy. Little did I imagine that this same island would be headline news by Wednesday morning, but for all the wrong reasons: as one of the islands worst affected by Hurricane Irma.
Anguilla and the neighbouring Caribbean islands have been badly hit by Irma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic. Winds of over 185mph have battered the low lying islands, many buildings have been destroyed and many people injured. The EU stands ready to respond and has mobilised emergency response instruments to help the affected territories, whilst the UK Government has belatedly stepped up its humanitarian response to Anguilla, following complaints that it wasn't diverting enough resources and attention to its Caribbean overseas territories.
Sadly, the story of British government neglect is familiar to Anguilla, as Brexit is showing. Anguillans are firmly British, they even fought a war in the 60s to remain British; but Anguilla also relies on cooperation with its neighbouring EU territories and on having free access across its border with the EU for the most basic health and transportation services. Anguillans have to pass through French and Dutch Saint Martin to reach an international airport, a deep sea port or to go to hospital. The British government has been slow to recognise the heavy impact that Brexit and the potential closing of borders would have on the Overseas Territory.
It shouldn't take a disaster to make the government pay attention to Anguilla, but if any good can come from this it might be that it focusses a few minds in Westminster on the situation Anguilla finds itself in with Brexit. Responses to natural disasters such as Irma, which are becoming sadly more frequent with the impacts of climate change, show the value of international response and cooperation between the UK and EU - at this time, we should be doing all we can to help Anguilla and the neighbouring islands.