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  • Pitcairn
  • Peter Clegg

The islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno (commonly known as Pitcairn) make up a single territory, the last remaining United Kingdom Overseas Territory (ukot) in the Pacific Ocean. But much of the period under review (1 July 2017–30 June 2018) was concerned with Pitcairn's relationship with the European Union (EU), which has been highly advantageous to the territory. However, a long shadow has been cast over these relations due to the upcoming departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit), which was officially scheduled for 29 March 2019.

Pitcairn is an Overseas Country and Territory (oct) of the European Union. octs are not part of the European Union and thus are not directly subject to EU law, but they do have associate status and thus receive various forms of assistance from Brussels. As a consequence, the limited resources of the Pitcairn Island Council were focused on securing as much EU funding as possible before Brexit, while also lobbying London to ensure the territory's interests were safeguarded in the longer term.

A crucial meeting for Pitcairn was the European Union Overseas Countries and Territories Ministerial Conference held in Brussels between 20 and 23 February 2018. A range of issues were discussed, including climate change, sustainable energy, and biodiversity, and what EU funding could best support initiatives in these areas (octa 2018). The highlight for Pitcairn was the signing of a European Development Fund (edf)–11 Focal Sector agreement, worth €2.35 mil-lion (us$2.72 million), to upgrade the island's medical center and to support several tourism-related activities, including "improving accessibility to Pitcairn, specifically by developing the Bounty Bay and Tedside landings and improving on-shore facilities" and "constructing a shelter and information centre for tourists and other visitors" (European Commission 2018a). A further €480,000 (us$556,000) was allocated under the EU's Pacific Regional Funding to cover two-thirds of the preliminary budgeted cost of the introduction of solar-powered renewable energy to Pitcairn (Pitcairn Miscellany 2018b).

Because of the frequent time lag in getting EU funds disbursed, Pitcairn also benefitted from some edf-10 money during the period under review. For example, a number of local road improvement projects were undertaken through the European Union's integre (Territories Initiative for Regional Management of the Environment) program (Pitcairn Miscellany 2017a). integre also supported a glass recycling project, whereby [End Page 219] empty glass bottles were recycled into souvenirs for the tourist market (Pitcairn Miscellany 2017b). The projects linked into integre's focus on building resilience and sustainable development in the Pacific octs in the face of climate change. In addition, funds from edf-10 paid for a new goods shed (Pitcairn Miscellany 2017a).

The importance of these funds was made clear in July 2017, when Pitcairn Islands Councillor Leslie Jaques gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union on the likely impacts of Brexit. He noted that the European Union provides "a significant amount" of funding—accounting for about 30 percent of Pitcairn's overall budget (House of Lords 2017, 6). He also explained the importance of being part of a regional envelope of funding, which helps to facilitate cooperation with French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and New Caledonia. Pitcairn gains benefits in other respects too; the European Union is one of Pitcairn's largest markets for its honey exports, and the free movement of Pitcairners to French Polynesia, and particularly Tahiti, for medical treatment is crucial.

As a consequence, Pitcairn has much to lose from Brexit, and Jaques did not mince words during his time with the House of Lords committee. He said that the loss of EU funding and freedom of movement to other European Union territories would be "catastrophic"; he went on to say that "we trust in the [Brexit] process and we hope for the best" (House of Lords 2017, 19). Jaques also cautioned that "we do not know [who will fill the funding gap], which is a concern" (House of Lords 2017, 6). So far the UK government has not given any reassurances that it will make good any shortfalls in support. More generally, there is...


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