Leaders from Britain’s overseas territories met in the Cayman Islands last week and pledged to work together to defend their right to self-government in the wake of perceived “constitutional overreach” from the United Kingdom.
“I see a beacon of hope with our team here, because we all realise that divided we fall, united we stand,” said Premier Andrew Fahie, according to the Cayman Compass.
Mr. Fahie attended both the June 26 annual United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association Pre-Joint Ministerial Council Meeting and the inaugural UK/OT International Trade Summit on June 27.
During the talks, OT leaders said they would resist any attempts to impose policies on same-sex marriage, belongership and financial services regulation, as recommended in a recent report from the UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which stoked indignation across the Virgin Islands.
While the UK government ultimately rejected many of the most controversial suggestions of the FAC report, some OT leaders expressed fear of continued pressure on the issues of same-sex marriage and voting rights.
“Modern-day colonialism is what is being attempted by those persons in Westminster, and I am certain that all overseas territories will resist it vociferously,” Bermuda Premier David Burt said at a press conference on June 26.
Many leaders took issue specifically with the legislation imposing public registers of beneficial ownership by 2023, while others like Gibraltar’s minister for commerce, Albert Isola, said it was “anti-democratic” for the UK to impose legislation on issues that are the responsibility of the OTs’ elected governments.
“There is no way today we can accept modern colonialism through the back door by allowing these things to happen,” he said. “On that, as has been demonstrated today, we are all 100 percent on the same page.”
Coming UK meeting
At the Pre-JMC, heads of government from the British OTs and the UK met to discuss the agenda for the JMC meeting that will take place in November in London and to receive updates on the work the UKOTA carried out over the past year, according to a June 26 government press release.
At the trade summit, officials from UK and OTs discussed opportunities for the OTs to engage in UK trade initiatives and to work with the Commonwealth’s Enterprise and Investment Council, the release stated.
The summit was the first of its kind, and it was hosted jointly by the governments of the UK and the Cayman Islands.
“This inaugural UK/OT International Trade Summit is an opportunity to showcase what the overseas territories have to offer and to also discuss trade opportunities with and for all OTs as we all look for ways to diversify our economies and take advantage of the opportunities that will be afforded after Brexit,” Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said in a statement.
Officials at the summit also talked about other industries, including financial technology, tourism, health care and the “blue economy” or “the economic use and preservation of the marine environment,” the press release stated.
Junior Minister of Tourism Shereen Flax-Charles, Junior Minister of Trade and Economic Development Sharie de Castro, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Premier’s Office Elvia Smith-Maduro, and Acting Director of the International Affairs Secretariat Najan Christopher also attended the summit.
This week Mr. Fahie is attending the 40th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in St. Lucia, which started yesterday and ends tomorrow, according to a Tuesday press release.
Government officials plan to discuss different measures to enhance the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, as well as issues related to security and regional and foreign relations.