Gibraltar elections, tidal power in Alderney and the Isle of Man’s taxpayers’ foray into the film industry

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Gibraltar

The UK Government has tabled regulations to ensure a continuation of financial services passporting rights between the UK and Gibraltar. Gibraltar-based financial services firms will continue to have access to UK markets in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

There was embarrassment when Gibraltar airport closed shortly after the Territory announced a major PR campaign in London entitled ‘Gibraltar is open for business.’ All flights to and from Gibraltar were diverted or cancelled for a day after air traffic control was closed due to staff sickness. Two inbound flights from Gatwick were diverted to Malaga, while the service linking the Rock to Casablanca via Tangier was cancelled. The company that runs air traffic control in Gibraltar under contract to the Ministry of Defence apologised for the disruption but the Government acknowledged that the closure had been harmful to Gibraltar’s reputation, especially during a period of Brexit uncertainty.

In a reflection of the changes in the banking industry rather than Brexit, Leeds Building Society is closing its Main Street branch which it opened in 2002. The Society will continue to support existing mortgage customers from the UK until they refinance but savers will need to make alternative arrangements.

The Governor of Gibraltar accepted Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s request to dissolve parliament and call an election for 17 October 2019. Picardo has been Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party since 2011. In the last election, Picardo’s Labour/Liberal alliance won 68% of the vote and 10 of the 17 seats. Picardo and his deputy found time to participate in the UK party conference season, attending the gathering of the mainstream parties including the SNP and DUP, and manning the Gibraltar stand when not addressing meetings.

Channel Islands

Guernsey recorded the highest number of second quarter property transactions since 2012 in July, with the Island’s stable political climate one of the key reasons why the number of people seeking to move to the island is on the increase according to Locate Guernsey. The organisation is tasked with bringing high-net-worth individuals to the Island to boost the economy. The quango said it had had more inquiries in the period to mid-August than there had been for the whole of 2018.

Economic enabler the Guernsey Investment Fund has committed more than £19m to 11 projects since launching 18 months ago. The technology focused fund invests in projects and businesses which may benefit the island both directly or indirectly and is underpinned by £25m of taxpayers’ money. Fund manager Ravenscroft has considered more than 100 applications and inquiries since launching, whilst 65 investment opportunities had been rejected or withdrawn.

A replacement undersea electricity cable, connecting Guernsey and Jersey, should be operational by the end of 2019, weather permitting, say Guernsey Electricity. The cable, which is 37.4km long and weighs 77kg per metre, is being installed after reliability issues with the previous cable. Jersey sources power from France via three other undersea cables. Guernsey currently relies on fossil fuel generated power.

More renewable energy, this time in Alderney. Alderney Electricity has entered a joint venture with SIMEC Atlantis which will see a tidal site built in the Raz Blanchard off the coast of Normandy in France. Simec Atlantis said it was also assessing options to ensure the island’s electricity needs were met during slack tide periods when tidal turbines would not be generating power. Currently the island is powered by its own diesel power plant.

On transport, a new summer service from Newcastle to Guernsey will be launched by Loganair and daily flights to Heathrow from Guernsey will continue into the winter season after operator Flybe opted to extend the service. Launched in March, with a £825,000 taxpayer subsidy, the States of Guernsey announced the Heathrow route would only be a trial but since then an estimated 13,000 passengers have used the service. Meanwhile losses at Guernsey’s national airline, Aurigny, continue to mount, with the state owned firm forecasting an annual £7.6m shortfall.

IOM

Evidence to the Tynwald’s Public Accounts Committee showed the Isle of Man government had put £60m into the film industry via the island’s Media Development Fund between 2007 and 2016; £32m has so far been returned from the investments. The investments included the 2008 feature film Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron, which lost taxpayers more than £9m and the animated feature Chico and Rita, which also lost the public purse £2.8m. The Committee heard that more than £20m had been written off while the fund was under the management of CinemaNX and a further £6m was lost under Pinewood Film Advisors. On the upside, a £12m investment in Pinewood shares netted the Manx Treasury £10m profit which offset some of the losses on other investments.

Flybe is closing its base at the island’s airport and handing operations over to partner Stobart Air. More efficient aircraft mean a base is no longer needed at Ronaldsway; two DeHavilland Q400 aircraft will be replaced with ATR 72066s. Once both aircraft are in use, Stobart Air, which brands its services as Flybe, will take over operations. A gradual closure of the base will be completed by the start of summer 2020. Recently Flybe confirmed the route between Ronaldsway and Heathrow was to end next month. The flights were launched in April but were not included in the airline’s winter schedule which suggests insufficient demand. The route mirrored a similar ‘trial’ in Guernsey from where flights to Heathrow will continue into the winter season after Flybe opted to extend the service. The States of Guernsey underpinned the route with an initial £825,000 taxpayer subsidy, since then an estimated 13,000 passengers have used the service and it is not known if a further state subsidy has been offered.

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