Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering (R-D7) sits with leaders of other overseas territories and United Kingdom officials at the Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London last week. (Photo: Provided)

United Kingdom officials assured overseas territories delegations last week that their European Union privileges would remain in place throughout the 21-month transition period after Brexit begins on March 29, 2019, according to Government Information Services.

Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering — appearing in Premier Dr. Orlando Smith’s stead, due to Dr. Smith’s Asia trip — travelled to London along with other OT leaders to discuss the impact of Brexit in the Joint Ministerial Council meeting.

While there, Greg Hands, the UK minister of state in the Department of International Trade, confirmed that the UK government will seek to include the territories in future post-Brexit international trade agreements, GIS reported.

Dr. Pickering (R-D7) talked up the announcements.

“It is helpful that BVI’s EU programmes on innovation, climate change, sustainable energy and marine biodiversity will continue through to December 2020,” the deputy premier said in a press release. “We will continue to pursue our policy to replicate our current relationship with the EU via CARIFORUM, CARICOM and OECS.”

Dr. Pickering and other OT leaders also challenged the passage of a recent UK bill requiring the establishment of public company registers in the territories, saying such a requirement was a breach of their constitutions.

“The BVI supports the overseas territories’ position that the UK overreached in the case of public registers and like other OTs will challenge this attempt to force implementation in the territory,” the deputy premier said.

Dr. Smith (R-at large) has previously announced that government appointed the law firm Withersworldwide and retained both Dan Sarooshi, a UK barrister and Oxford international law professor, and Gerard Farara, a VI Queen’s counsel with expertise in the territory’s Constitution, to explore challenging the potential constitutional violation the UK law may represent.

Climate change convention

At the Pre-JMC meeting for OT leaders on June 13, delegates selected Dr. Pickering to represent the territories at the 24th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2018.

“I am honoured by the overseas territories’ vote of confidence in me and the British Virgin Islands government to represent them at the UNFCCC COP24 later this year,” he said in a press release. “We have gained a wealth of experience over the years at UN meetings in relation to small island developing states, climate change and sustainable development, which we will bring to bear to advance the cause of the territories.”

Before that meeting, Dr. Pickering also met separately with Bermuda and Caribbean OT leaders to discuss regional coordination for hurricane response, as well as their future relationship with the UK, according to GIS.