Britain must honour its debt to Caribbean islands | Letters
Till Bruckner calls on UK to remember its slave history, Linda McAvon on the importance of EU aid, while Alasdair Macdonald wants HMS Ocean to become a disaster relief vessel
The small Caribbean island-nation of Dominica has been hit by the second natural disaster in two years (Report, 19 September). In 2015, tropical storm Erika wiped out an estimated 90% of the country’s GDP. Hurricane Maria caused similar devastation. No country can cope alone with the aftermath of two natural disasters of this scale. While Dominicans may be too polite to point this out, Britain owes the island a considerable debt. First, we profited greatly from centuries of slave labour. Stately homes were built from the profits gained by working Dominicans to death. Then, we benefited from globalisation, which boosted our exports, while wiping out virtually all of Dominica’s manufacturing sector. Today, we routinely fly abroad for cheap vacations, causing carbon pollution that makes natural disasters such as Erika and Maria more frequent and severe. Dominicans have had no say in any of these developments. The very least we can do is pay up and enable them to rebuild.
• The OECD rules you refer to (British territories hit by Irma ‘too wealthy’ to receive aid budget funds, 13 September) measure what can count towards a country’s 0.7% aid target, not whether or not a country can be given aid. As a recent Lords report points out, the EU provides aid to British overseas territories through the European Development Fund. That aid accounts for 36% of Anguilla’s capital budget, which is why we need clarity on what happens after Brexit. The government could choose to continue working through the EU, but must at the least make good any funding lost. Many of these tiny islands also rely on EU law to guarantee trade and free movement, including for medical treatment, to neighbouring islands which are overseas territories of other EU countries. These issues must be addressed if we are to do right by all British people.
Linda McAvan MEP
Chair, European parliament committee on development