Worries caused by the Brexit “crisis” were highlighted by councillor Jonathan Wills yesterday when he addressed an international islands commission warning that Shetland is among the communities facing increased uncertainty.
Dr Wills is attending the General Assembly of the Islands Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Regions (CPMR) in Malta, where the “future of Europe” was being discussed.
As Shetland delegate, Dr Wills moved an amendment to the commission’s Final Declaration which referred to the “increasing concern the uncertainties the prospect of Brexit is causing for island communities in the UK, and expresses the hope that the British government will safeguard the interests of islanders, particularly as regards support for agriculture, fisheries management and subsidies for lifeline air and ferry services”.
His motion was passed unanimously after he told delegates that the vote to leave the EU had “precipitated the greatest crisis” since the Second World War.
Worst affected, he argued, were rural and island areas.
Dr Wills said: “Very suddenly, we’re faced with severe economic and social disruption, and a constitutional crisis not seen in Scotland for 310 years.
“Will [Prime Minister Theresa] May come back from Brussels with no deal? If so, will she tell the people of Britain: ‘Sorry, we tried to get what you voted for, but we couldn’t, so let’s just remain in the EU’? I think this is hardly likely unless the House of Commons does its duty and votes for the interests of the country as a whole, rather than the one-third of the registered electors who actually went out and voted to leave the EU on the basis of a false prospectus.
“Will the House of Commons do its duty? We shall see.
Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have benefited massively from EU funds over the past 44 years. Who will pay to renew and replace all the roads, bridges, ferry terminals and ferries created with EU assistance? JONATHAN WILLS
“Whatever happens in Westminster, it’s now very likely that there will be a second referendum on Scottish independence and that the result will be ‘yes’ to self-determination within the European Union, or at least in the single market.
“In either case, the islands of Scotland face upheaval.”
Citing examples of the upheaval he predicted, Dr Wills highlighted agriculture and uncertainty over subsidies; tariff barriers that may hurt islands’ export markets; confusion over fisheries management; concerns over migrant workers; and loss of EU-funded infrastructure investment.
He added: “Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have benefited massively from EU funds over the past 44 years. Who will pay to renew and replace all the roads, bridges, ferry terminals and ferries created with EU assistance?
“At present there are no answers to any of these urgent questions. And that is the biggest scandal of this cluster-catastrophe called Brexit. That is why we, the islanders of Scotland, are asking the Islands Commission to appeal to the British government to provide reassurance and clear answers to our concerns.”