Lars Matheusen on a seal hunt

In 1982, Greenland, the world’s largest island but dwelling to solely 57,000 folks, left the European Union. How has the nation fared and what can the UK be taught from the autonomous Danish dependent territory’s departure from the EU?

“In Greenlandic waters most seals are often beside the icebergs, as a result of it is simpler for them to see the fish swimming round.”

Aksel and his colleague Lars are trying to find seal. They characterize Greenland’s newest battle with the EU – a journey that began 4 many years in the past.

In 1982 – by nearly precisely the identical margin because the UK vote – Greenland selected to depart the EU, then the EEC. In a single stroke the union misplaced roughly half its territory.

Greenland’s difficulty with the European Union was the Frequent Fisheries Coverage – permitting European trawlers to fish in Greenlandic waters. Within the subsequent negotiations Greenlanders agreed to provide the EU restricted fishing quotas in alternate for funding – a deal that took three years to hammer out

Aqqaluk Lynge, who was a part of the negotiating crew, explains: “It was very troublesome for the European Union and the Europeans to grasp why we wished to get out and why we did not need their cash.

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Getty Photographs

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Fishing is a staple business in Greenland

“However the truth is that there was no cash. There was minimal funding in infrastructure which we wanted badly. That is why we may see there was no financial purpose to remain.”

The deal has usually been seen as an excellent one for Greenlandic fisherman however not everybody right here is so blissful.

Fur is one in every of Greenland’s solely exports aside from fish. You possibly can even purchase it at airport departure gates. In 2010 the EU banned the sale of seal merchandise within the EU. There’s a small Inuit exemption, however the ban has destroyed the market.

Aksel is offended. “Earlier than the ban we have been promoting roughly 200,000 to 240,000 skins yearly. After that EU ban, we’re promoting roughly 2,000 skins to the japanese market. It is a massive distinction, between 200,000 and a couple of,000. I might name it zero market, no market in any respect.”

Michael Rosing, an MP for the Democrats – a minority social gathering in a authorities coalition – says: “I undoubtedly assume it could have been so much simpler to barter, we’d have had much more bargaining energy if we have been a part of the EU.

“We may type of go ‘yeah you guys need our fish, effectively we wish to promote sealskins so what are you going to do?'”

For different industries, although, Greenland’s exit from the EU has been extra optimistic.

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The port at Greenland’s largest metropolis, Nuuk

Nikolai Nissen has simply began exporting beer to the EU. He must import the whole lot, aside from water, that he requires for the brewing course of.

“There’s a VAT in Denmark, like in Germany and so forth, so if we have been a Danish firm in Denmark we must pay 25% on the whole lot we purchase for the corporate,” he says.

“However, as a result of we’re exterior the EU, we have now the opportunity of deducting that VAT.”

Greenland is ready to use its fairly curious worldwide standing as a bonus. It’s exterior the EU, nevertheless it falls inside the Kingdom of Denmark and is due to this fact one in every of its abroad territories.

“It will be simpler for us if we have been a member of the EU after all,” Nikolai explains.

“It will be simpler for the paperwork and dealing with the sensible issues. Being a part of the Kingdom nonetheless provides us sure benefits and it is simpler to make use of Denmark as a stepping stone for us to export. It is nearly as simple to export to Denmark as it could be if we have been part of the EU.”

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Greenland is exterior the EU, however is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark and is an abroad territory of the EU

Some consider Greenland’s sheer dimension – and maybe extra importantly – its potential mineral wealth, signifies that if Greenland have been within the EU it could be eligible for hefty funding.

“We’re principally one of many ones that may get extra again than we put in,” says Mr Rosing “So for us it must be a no brainer, economically. We must always get in there and get entry to that massive pot of cash. It is so simple as that.”

It will be troublesome to say that Greenland has thrived exterior the EU. Alcoholism right here is rife and the nation boasts the unenviable declare because the suicide capital of the world.

When requested, most individuals listed below are solely vaguely acutely aware of the EU, or what it’s.

However Greenland does provide the UK an imperfect template of the best way to depart the EU. In some ways it has benefited from leaving. However it’s additionally been omitted within the chilly when main coverage selections have been being made about the way forward for one in every of its few exports.

Watch James Clayton’s Newsnight movie on Greenland via iPlayer.