In 2019, the UK and the Faroe Islands finalised their free trade agreement (FTA), governing the trade relationship between the two countries post-Brexit. Since the deal's inking, trade between both parties has increased by 136.9%, with the UK importing £582 million worth of goods and services and exporting £34 million to the Faroe Islands. While this trade deal is important for both countries' economies, the Faroese are disproportionately reliant on the UK as an export destination. For example, in 2020 the UK was the country’s third largest trading partner, behind only Russia and Denmark. The vast majority (82%) of UK-Faroese imports are fish and seafood, with animal feed making up the largest share of Faroese-UK imports (41%).
Historically, environmental and ethical considerations have been largely absent from trade agreements, with a longstanding belief that environmental considerations and trade should be considered separate. Indeed, one of the arguments behind Brexit was to take back control of Britain's trading relationships. The September 12th Grind – which was publicly condemned in the UK – is a perfect chance for the UK to flex its newfound trading autonomy and inject a level of ethics and consideration for animal welfare into its trading relationships. The UK must use the economic relationship as a ‘carrot’ for the Faroese government to stop the Grind, and employ economic sanctions if they don’t.
The Faroe Islands must know that they cannot behave unethically towards marine wildlife and expect to enjoy trading benefits with a country that has one of the highest standards for animal welfare in the world. With the UK being the archipelago's closest trading partner and the islands' reliance on UK fish imports, it is within the UK government's grasp to put an end to the barbaric and unnecessary killing of whales and dolphins.
Using economic pressure is critical; decades of civic anti-grind activism have shown that the Faroese do not care whether others consider the Grind to be ethical or cruel. However, the Faroese do care about economic prosperity and the development of close economic ties with the UK. Trade pressure has shown to work in the past - the Faroe Islands’ unwillingness to adhere to fishing quotas changed only after the 2013 EU sanctions were imposed. Economic pressure works.
The time has come for the UK government to acknowledge that UK consumers will not accept less expensive imports at any cost. The UK government must reconsider its trade relationship with the Faroe Islands to maintain its commitment to sustainability, biodiversity, and animal welfare.