This week Premier Dr. Orlando Smith led a delegation to the Joint Ministerial Council meetings in London, where he planned to emphasise the importance of the Virgin Islands within the global economy.
During sessions with United Kingdom ministers and other overseas territory leaders on Tuesday and yesterday, Dr. Smith intended to focus on promoting the role of the VI in a “post-Brexit world,” stressing that the territory is supporting the UK by leveraging its relationships with partners in Asia and Africa while also looking for “its own opportunities” in new markets, according to a statement released by Government Information Services.
“As a highly respected centre for business and financial services which adheres to global standards, we are dedicated to serving the needs of our own people, as well as the international community,” Dr. Smith said. “As the UK approaches its exit from the [European Union] in March 2019, the value of the BVI will only continue to increase in importance.”
Dr. Smith’s delegation includes Glenroy Forbes, the financial secretary; Dawn Smith, acting permanent secretary in the Premier’s Office; Elise Donovan, director of the BVI London Office and UK/EU representative; and Dr. Sandra Besson, deputy director of the BVI London Office.
In the premier’s absence, Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering is acting as premier and minister of finance.
Governor Gus Jaspert is also attending the meetings, according to a separate press release, and Deputy Governor David Archer is acting as governor from last Thursday to Dec. 10 during his absence.
Various topics were slated to be discussed during this week’s meetings, including progress on the EU exit negotiations; principles behind constitutional powers and an update from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on requests for constitutional reform; child safeguarding; mental health; and the EU tax blacklisting process.
The premier is also looking to protect the rights of VI residents and the future of trade and investment across the region, according to the press release.
“As the UK seeks to define its relationship with the EU we are, in turn, discussing how we ensure our constitutional relationship with the UK is fit for purpose,” he said. “We are pleased that the UK government will continue to support us and are encouraged by [Prime Minister Theresa May’s] statement that ‘We will always negotiate on behalf of the whole UK family [including the overseas territories] and in the future relationship we will stand up for their interests.’”
On Sunday, Dr. Smith hosted a luncheon with VI students in London. He was also scheduled to attend “UK overseas territories association and overseas territories bilateral meetings,” as well as a Foreign and Commonwealth Office reception, and participate in various other meetings and engagements throughout the week, the press release reported.
The governor’s attendance in London, meanwhile, appeared to have been less carefully scheduled.
Last week, government communications officers scheduled a “Catch up with Governor Jaspert” event with members of the media for Thursday morning, promising that Mr. Jaspert would “provide updates on matters of interest” and that reporters would be able to ask various questions.
The day before the event, it was postponed without explanation.
Then, last Thursday, government announced that Mr. Jaspert had actually left the territory that day to attend the JMC meetings.
Arliene Penn, the acting executive private secretary in the Governor’s Office, added in a press release, “The governor is looking forward to taking part in those engagements.”