GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Feb 27, CMC – Premier Alden McNee McLaughlin Jr. says he will lead the move towards independence for this British Overseas Territory, if the British government accepts a report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that recommends new measures to government London’s relationship with the BOTs.
In its 44-page report titled “Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship,” the Committee recommends an overhaul of voting rights, setting a date for same-sex marriages, and implementing public beneficial ownership registers by 2020.
But McLaughlin said he found the report shameful because it seeks to impose a new era of neo-colonialism on the BOTs that include Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“It is not a government committee. It is merely recommendations to the government which the government can accept or not accept….as the case may be,“ McLaughlin said, adding “ I know everybody is a bit exercised about this, but I would caution people not to get to overly concerned about it.
“It is not the view of the government,” he said, adding “the report does not reflect the current UK government’s position with respect to these matters”.
The Committee in its report released in London last week, said belongership and its equivalents are wrong, noting that “while we recognise that the OTs are small communities with unique cultural identities, we do not accept that there is any justification to deny legally-resident British Overseas Territory and UK citizens the right to vote and to hold elected office.
“This elevates one group of British people over another and risks undermining the ties that bind the UK and the OTs together in one global British family.”
It suggests that London should initiate a consultation with the elected governments of the OTs and work with them to agree a plan to ensure that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office in territory.
But McLaughlin made it clear he would be leading the charge for independence, should London agree on accepting the recommendations contained in the report.
“The day the UK government seriously considers that persons who are not Caymanians can stand for office here, is the day, if I am still able and alive, I lead the charge for independence,” he said.
He said the report “demonstrates a lack of regard for the nature of the constitutional relationship and the significant atonement which has been given to territories like the Cayman Islands. Autonomy which we are hoping to increase”.
Premier McLaughlin said that if London insists that non-Caymanians are to stand for office here “I think that would be a breaking point in the relationship,” which could start a push for independence.
“If I am around at that time, I would certainly led the charge for independence. I think that would be what would push us over the line, because it would be a clear indication of an attempt to take over the territory by persons who do not have any real invested interest in the territory,” he added.
In the report, the Committee is also calling on the British government to urgently address concerns in the BOTs about the issue of citizenship by descent and anomalies in the British Nationality Act that have taken too long to resolve.
“It should also consider options for removing quotas on the number of people in the OTs that can access NHS (National Health Service) services in the UK when their 32 Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship own health systems cannot provide the care and treatment they need”.
It said that this may be difficult from a bureaucratic point of view but it is an important test of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) ability to fight the BOTs’ corner in the UK.
The Committee notes that for the Overseas Territories, Global Britain is a living reality and they have a valuable part to play in it.
The Committee said also that the government “must clarify the UK’s future relationship with the European Union as soon as possible and analyse the impact on the BOTs, what funding will be required to ensure the BOTs are not losing out, and what input the BOTs will have on the replacement of EU funding in the future”.