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Walking a mile in Europe’s shoes

02 March 2017


In February I listened with my colleagues to the news that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May MP would not be staying on for talks on the future of the European Union (EU) following her morning meetings in Brussels. This seemed of course perfectly logical. Why would the Prime Minister have attended? The UK does not have a future in the EU. But hang on a minute…isn’t the UK still a Member at the moment? Despite still holding current member status, the UK is rapidly losing its place at the top tables of EU negotiation and one day soon will be without any formal say at all.

Strangely, the UK will find itself in a similar position to the Isle of Man. We have always been a third country for Financial Services outside the European Union. As a result, perhaps we have some valuable insight to share with our neighbours.

As part of the process of ensuring that we raise awareness of the Isle of Man’s interests in the Brexit process, we are speaking regularly to the UK Government. There are no fewer than 49 work streams in the UK responsible for a huge breadth of subjects; including everything from agriculture to energy and financial services. The Isle of Man needs to engage with most of them.

Fortunately, we have great engagement through the Ministry of Justice and I cannot compliment enough the supportive approach the UK Government has taken – across a number of Departments - to Crown Dependencies in light of the Brexit decision. Just the other week I attended a round table discussion about future trade policy and immigration in a post-Brexit world and we are maintaining a regular dialogue with our counterparts in London.

I would go so far as to say that relations between the Isle of Man and the UK have never been better. We find ourselves in a position, while in a minor way, of being able to support our colleagues in Whitehall and share our experiences as a successful third country operating outside the European Union. That said, not for a moment do we not see the dangers of the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories being used as pawns in a bigger game.

Existing outside the EU, yet frequently directly affected by the decisions the EU make, we have found it vital to respect and understand the other side’s points of view. To do this, and ensure we’re not left behind, we need to proactively engage at early stages and take the time to understand the nuances of language and cultural differences of our counterparts. The reality is that the UK will find itself without a seat at the top EU negotiating table so it will need to find other ways to influence European policy. Being the world’s 5th largest economy will no doubt help.

The Isle of Man takes its commitment to European and international standards very seriously and was one of the first of the small international business centres that volunteered to be assessed in the 5th round Moneyval evaluations.

We are committed to fair, transparent and internationally recognised levels of regulation and compliance as we have shown in our agreement to measures on both Beneficial Ownership and Common Reporting Standards.

We hope that by continuing to work with our international partners on important matters such as these we are able to maintain a dialogue and avoid any sense of dissent on commonly held international values.

The main challenge to trade that I foresee for both the UK and the Isle of Man is the threat of protectionism. It would seem that acquired wisdom is being thrown out of the window with a lack of understanding that protectionist measures don’t grow economies, quite the opposite in fact.

Both the UK and the Isle of Man need to make sure that we maintain good relationships with our European neighbours to ensure we’re not disadvantaged by protectionist measures.

The Isle of Man has seen an increase in trade in financial services since the Brexit vote. The devaluation of sterling has improved the value of foreign currency holdings and with improved local business confidence along with the recent announcement of a £1million Brexit fund as part of the Island’s 2017/18 Budget, we are quietly confident about the future.

Find out more about Financial and Professional Services in the Isle of Man.

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