Rishi Sunak makes his first speech as the prime minister of the United Kingdom on Tuesday. (Screenshot: YOUTUBE/10 Downing Street)

Rishi Sunak is the United Kingdom’s new prime minister following Liz Truss’s resignation last week after she held the office for just 45 days.

The leadership change, however, is not expected to affect plans for the UK’s overseas territories minister to visit the Virgin Islands today, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said Tuesday, adding that he is ready to work with the new administration on economic resilience, Commission of Inquiry reforms, and other areas of mutual interest.

Mr. Sunak delivered his first statement as PM on Tuesday, promising to place economic stability “at the heart” of his government while fixing “mistakes” made by his predecessor.

The 42-year-old served as chief secretary to the Treasury from 2019 to 2020 and is a member of Parliament for Richmond. Born to parents of Punjabi Indian descent, Mr. Sunak is the first person of colour to serve as the PM of the UK.

Ms. Truss resigned on Oct. 19 after a tumultuous 45 days in office. During her tenure — the shortest in UK history — she announced plans to limit energy costs for households and implement $50 billion worth of unfunded tax cuts.

The announcements sent markets reeling, and she quickly scrapped both plans and replaced her finance minister after facing backlash from critics including the International Monetary Fund and members of her
own Conservative Party.

But her reversal wasn’t enough to assuage her opponents, and Ms. Truss resigned after admitting that she wasn’t able to deliver the “low-tax, high-growth economy” she had promised.

OT minister

Despite the leadership change, UK OT Minister Jesse Norman — who was appointed the day after Ms. Truss became PM on Sept. 6 — has retained his position.

He will also stick to his plan to visit the territory today and tomorrow to discuss the progress of the Commission of Inquiry reforms with the premier and other political leaders, according to Dr. Wheatley.

During a House of Assembly sitting on Tuesday, the premier made a brief statement about Mr. Sunak’s appointment and the next steps the territory will take in its relationship with the UK.

“I congratulate Prime Minister Sunak on his appointment and wish him every success in office,” Dr. Wheatley said. “He and his new Cabinet have many pressing issues to address including gaining the confidence of the British people and the financial markets and addressing the UK’s cost-of-living crisis and energy crisis. I’m confident the UK will find its way out of its current circumstances in due course.”

The premier added that he had a “good working relationship” with former OT Minister Amanda Milling and that he looks forward to a similar relationship with Mr. Norman.

“Last month I had the opportunity to informally meet Minister Norman. Our exchange was warm and friendly. I look forward to engaging with him … when he visits this territory,” Dr. Wheatley said. “Among other things, we will discuss the progress of reform and strengthening the economic resilience of the territory.”

He added that he also plans to discuss the order in council in reserve that allows the UK to suspend the territory’s Constitution, arguing that it doesn’t support a modern partnership or the aspirations of the Virgin Islands.

“Both sides must act in good faith and be true to democracy,” he said.

JMC meeting

Dr. Wheatley also announced that next month he will travel to London to attend the Joint Ministerial Council meetings between OT political leaders and UK ministers.

“We will discuss issues such as constitutional development, sanctions, economic management, climate change and other environmental matters,” he said.

Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn will accompany him, he added.

“A key diplomatic objective of the Government of National Unity is to build a modern partnership with the UK that supports the aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands. While there are many areas that the VI can benefit from closer cooperation with the UK, we will not agree with everything,” he said. “The key is the achieve the right balance of interests be- tween the UK and the Virgin Islands as we work together. In this regard, it is very important that both sides pursue their interests in a constructive and diplomatic manner and make their best efforts to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes.”