It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case then the photo of the Premier of the Cayman Islands ‘working the sidelines’ at the recent UK ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester this past week speaks volumes.
According to a Cayman Islands government statement, Premier Alden McLaughlin was on his way back from Brussels where he had a series of meetings with top EU officials on matters pertaining to offshore tax jurisdictions.
Both proactive moves are to be applauded.
The Brussels meeting for directly approaching the EU to state the Cayman’s case in advance of the upcoming publication of an updated list of blacklisted tax jurisdictions, will pay dividends.
Likewise, the presence at the ruling Conservative Party’s annual conference for taking advantage of the chance to play the Cayman’s card to UK government and ruling party reps at their most receptive was well timed. There were also other meetings with UK government ministers and parliamentarians in more formal and official settings.
Both put the Cayman Islands ‘front and centre’ at a time when the UK’s Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)/British Overseas Territories (BOTs) have the attention of the British and EU officialdom, and the British media. This in part is due to Brexit and by sheer force of circumstance and bad-luck-turned-to-opportunity, two hurricanes which have just about laid waste to three Caribbean OCTs/BOTs in less than a month.
The hurricane devastation in the overseas territories of Anguilla, British Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands not only got the sympathetic attention of British officialdom and media, but has put the economic situation of these islands on the front burner in a manner diametrically opposite to what it was before.
That of course hasn’t stopped some sections of the British media and society from misguidedly questioning the relative wealth of these islands, built mainly on legitimate offshore financial services and tourism, as a basis to ‘fix themselves’.
The extent of the devastation across the islands makes such assertions woefully fallacious.
At the same time, that very offshore financial sector, which was the reason for Premier McLauglin’s ‘Brussels bonding’ is finding itself increasingly nudged into the spotlight alongside the UK’s world-leading financial centre, London.
With Brexit, London could possibly find itself subjected to even more of the kind of scrutiny that the likes of the Cayman Islands have become accustomed to.
The Cayman Islands and other UK OCTs financial centres are constantly in the crosshairs of stringent international regulations governing global sector, much of which resides in these paradise islands, some say disproportionately.
Going directly to the seat of those regulations was not only self-preservation for the Cayman Islands and its partner OCT financial centres, but also a positive reflection on the UK that its territories are playing by global rules of compliance in this lucrative and very specialised sector.
But the very success of the sector makes them less of a drain on the British treasury, arguments of tax avoidance and tax evasion notwithstanding.
It’s also in the UK’s interest to not only keep them afloat, but towing the line on the same global regulations to which its own London financial district and sector are subjected...and standing in their corner as needed.
Brexit will no doubt have some negative consequences for London’s financial sector although to what extent is yet to be determined, as is any knock-on effects for the UK’s overseas financial centre territories.
All of this is happening when there are growing calls for reviewing and renewing of the depth and nature of relations between the UK and its overseas territories.
A recently repeated call by British Conservative Party MP Andrew Rosindell for the Overseas Territories to have a direct voice in the UK parliament via some form of representation is worthy of attention and follow-up.
In a direct quote for the Caymanian Times, Mr Rosindell stated:
“Because of the responsibility Britain holds towards their security and good governance, I think some form of Westminster representation should be on the cards. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee I worked with many excellent politicians who really value the British family, and I think they would be a credit to their constituents.
“There is certainly an unfair gap within the system. Devolution in UK has arguably made Scotland almost as autonomous as our Crown Dependencies, yet the latter has no direct representation at all, or even the House of Lords. While the Foreign Office may have many other priorities, I think this would be a logical step which could build upon our strong relationships.
As British citizens live under the jurisdiction of the British government, it is only fair they should get a more direct say. By making them equal in the making of that law, it creates the opportunity to engage with our fellow citizens, despite how far away they may be.”
Andrew Rosindell MP
That’s a significant statement reflecting a commitment by Mr Rosindell to see this through to its realisation.
There is a lead role in this here for the Cayman Islands.
Pardon the upcoming pun, but the current ‘perfect storm’ of situations triggered by the impact real storms of Irma and Maria on Anguilla, BVI and TCI, and the metaphorical storm that Brexit is turning out to be, might be the catalyst to rethink and re-engineer the relationship between the UK and its overseas territories.
The French overseas territories are only overseas geographically while the Netherlands and its Caribbean territories entered a new relationship in 2010. The nature of that ‘one true and equal family’ was evident in the response to the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and pointed to the differences in response mechanisms compared to the British.
The hoops that British government has to jump through to fund the rebuilding of its overseas territories is quite dissimilar to the Dutch and French who, unlike the British, are not hamstrung by funding out of their overseas aid budgets, which the British have been barred from doing under international law.
This is a conversation that the OCTs and the UK need to have and Brexit and the recent hurricanes might just be the catalyst for it, along with Mr Rosindell’s call for parliamentary representation.
Judging from its recent Brussels and Manchester overtures, the pedigree it brings to these circumstances, and its place among the elite of global players in the financial sector, the Cayman Islands would seem well-placed to take the initiative on this.
Mike Jarvis, London UK