Tristan Government UK Representative Chris Carnegy's summary report on the 2016 UK Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council held in London on 2nd and 3rd November attended by Tristan da Cunha Chief Islander Ian Lavarello.

Reflections on JMC Week

From Tristan Government UK Representative Chris Carnegy

Delegates representing UK Overseas Territories gather with OT Minister Baroness Anelay
in the foyer of Lancaster House. Ian Lavarello is far right on the front row.

(Chris Carnegy's Report goes alongside the photo report on newsgovOTJMC2016)

The 2016 Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council brought delegates from across the globe – and this year it saw Chief Islander Ian Lavarello make the long trek.

Tristan’s isolation frames JMC week in three ways. It’s a big part of our agenda: internet connectivity and physical access were two key topics. It grabs the attention: everyone sits-up when you describe the challenges of life in the remotest community on earth. And it lends a special status to the Chief Islander; countless conversations begin with “how long did it take you to get here?” At the start of the week, Ian was congratulated on becoming the first person to win three successive terms as Chief Islander. Our main host was Overseas Territories minister Baroness Anelay, who impressed OT leaders with her positive attitude and her deft handling of the discussions.

For Tristan, three topics linked many of the meetings: infrastructure, marine protection, and the effects of Brexit.

Ian made a formal intervention on infrastructure. He explained how a useable internet connection is more important in such a remote setting than almost anywhere else. It was gratifying to watch the Foreign Office and International Development ministers nodding emphatically as he spoke. We hope that satellite costs will drop sharply with increased competition in future; our plea is for a few years of extra bandwidth to help us make it through until then, and we’re optimistic of success.

Ian conveyed the thanks of the whole community for the new hospital, which arrived in kit form at Tristan during JMC week. And he acknowledged the recent harbour repairs, whilst also reminding the UK that more work already needs doing.

On the ‘blue belt’ agenda, Ian’s message was consistent: Tristan is proud of its record on marine sustainability, and is ambitious in designing new protections for its vast economic zone - but the work will be driven from the island, not imposed from outside. The UK has accepted that principle, and has offered full financial support for the work that lies ahead, including for monitoring and enforcement to combat illegal fishing.

During the week we learned that a forum will be created early in 2017 for joint ‘Brexit’ talks between UK and OT politicians, and that Tristan da Cunha will be invited to take part. Mark Garnier MP, minister with the new International Trade department, heard Ian’s second formal intervention. Tristan has a long-held ambition to gain access to China for sales of gourmet lobster, but at present is effectively blocked by punishing tariffs. Ian appealed to the minister to allow OTs inclusion in any future post-Brexit trade agreements that could help us level the playing field.

At the end of the conference, it was the Chief Islander of Tristan da Cunha who led a heartfelt round of applause for Baroness Anelay. We may be small, but this week put Tristan well and truly on the map.

Chris Carnegy's Report goes alongside the photo report on newsgovOTJMC2016