Post-Brexit Britain, and the events before and after, mean that a referendum must now be held in the Caribbean overseas territories to decide whether or not these islands move towards greater autonomy, either within the United Kingdom or within the European Union.
Brexit has unleashed great anger among the Remain constituency in the UK, as expected — but even more so at the periphery of the UK. Talk of unity is a “con.” Britain remains divided down the middle on Brexit, and that will not change.
Brexit has not simply exposed the divisions inherent in UK society, but like a blanket pulled away, it has exposed the racism and prejudices that have always been part of Britain. That the UK eventually will return to the EU is inevitable in this writer’s opinion. As the over-60s pass on, the under-50s are much more European than their parents.
Then, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to join the EU after referendums of their own. Preparations for these votes could start in a matter of months. And even Wales has started to kick up against Brexit and sees its future as part of the EU.
There is a new UK reality. Brexit, as this writer has warned, is far from over. In fact, Brexit is now entering the turmoil and convulsion phase. The post-Brexit seas will be as stormy and volatile as ever.
In the OTs
The UK will consist of little more than England and the OTs in the coming years. And that is if the OTs are willing to remain with the England component of the Old UK.
And the idea that United States President Donald Trump and a trans-Atlantic alliance with the US will save the day has become laughable. Mr. Trump is as unpredictable as ever. China and India are the new game in town for now. And most intelligent observers know China is a risky bet: an absolute dictatorship with a culture completely alien to western mores.
Another matter: The EU is prepared to be as uncooperative as Brexiters have been in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
Okay. Caribbean OT referendums should be held after extensive discussion and debate on whether or not these islands should become individually independent or unite to become autonomous territories of the UK or EU.
Autonomy means complete independence from the UK in domestic matters after a thorough constitutional review, and a new constitutional process that stresses separation of powers. That process must further be loaded with checks and balances. Autonomous OTs should adopt a governor general of the Caribbean OTs and privy councillor nominated by premiers in council and legislators in committee.
The OT governor general, a person of huge savvy, pedigree and intellect, should act as constitutional guardian, head of national security, and OT ambassador to the world at large. The governor will be head of the various public services in the OTs, assisted by governors of each OT operating in much the same manner as existing governors. Governors, too, will be appointed by premiers in council and committees made up of all three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial.
A chief justice of the OTs who sits on the Privy Council is also an option.
Now, one of the “peeves” of the Caribbean OTs on Brexit is the fact that these dependent territories of the UK were not consulted on the Brexit process at any stage. Then OT citizens were to find out at the very last minute that they were — in the long run — to be stripped of any benefits and status they possessed from the EU as territories of a UK exiting the Union.
Then, in a recent article, a VI official with responsibility to the premier for international affairs stated that post-Brexit the OTs would have to reassess their relationship with the UK. This was a very valid assertion.
It is clear from the whole Brexit saga that the Caribbean OTs were merely an afterthought in the process: backwaters, forgotten outposts.
In any event, Foreign Office types and most UK expatriates will happily tell natives that the UK would gladly be rid of the OTs — or, as one expat friend told this writer, the UK is ambivalent towards a VI that is hanging on to the “apron strings of the motherland: sucking off mummy’s teats.”
There is a huge caveat for the VI independence debate: In a world that is integrating into super states and super regions, the OTs will not survive as single independent island nations unless they form constitutional unions, and equally concrete relationships, with geographically, culturally and socially similar countries.
That is why regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States are crucial for Caribbean island jurisdictions. The USVI is a further relationship that is vital for this territory.
In the UK
It is critical that the OTs not be caught flatfooted in the midst of Brexit. One simply has to read the UK news to see what is happening in the UK as the country changes beyond recognition.
Today the UK has more in common with China, India and the Middle East than the Caribbean, with an authoritarian government that practically owns Parliament. This will lead to unpredictability and overreach in future relations with Caribbean OTs.
Consequently, the OTs must come together as a single bloc in a pre-union, with premiers, chief ministers, and other high officials holding regular meetings.
Ultimately a secretariat and a council of OT premiers — and even a regional OT assembly where OT legislators in the various OTs can sit together and discuss and vote on specific matters — are warranted.
If ever there was a time for OT leaders to unite, discuss and debate the constitutional, social, and economic status and future of the Caribbean OTs, the time is now.
We should not wait until one morning when we all wake up to learn that the new UK wants to cut that proverbial apron string and let us loose into a very dangerous world.
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