By Christopher Tobutt
Three key words, “Partnership,” “Respect,” and “Family” characterized all of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon’s descriptions of the evolving relationships between the Overseas Territories (OTs) and the UK, in a press Q & A session during his recent three-day visit to the Cayman Islands.
Lord Ahmad began by paying tribute to the Cayman Islands for taking a key role in organizing a trade summit, which took place at the Kimpton hotel, with senior delegations from across the OTs. The Minister also attended a Joint Ministerial Council Meeting on Brexit, and bilateral talks with the Jamaican Prime Minister.
About the trade summit, he said: “I very much hope there will be momentum from this particular event so we can build on the important issues that matter to the overseas territories particular on the agenda of prosperity because prosperity builds progress.
“I am also delighted to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Constitution,” he said, before speaking about how the UK has been working with the OTs and other countries across the region to strengthen the region’s resilience against hurricanes and other disasters. “We can learn from Cayman’s experiences and how we can build on its assets to ensure there is a collective response to any future challenge we may face. We are committed to the region, and that is why RFA Mounts Bay will remain in the region.”
On the issue of Beneficial Ownership, Lord Ahmad said: “I am also conscious that the last couple of years have been years of challenge in the area of financial services, I will defend the principles of ensuring transparency. We need, as our parliament decided, public registers which are an important step forward for the whole British family including our Overseas Territories, but we do so in a practical and pragmatic way.
“I welcome the positive exchange we have had with the Cayman Island Government on the technical working conditions we are setting up to ensure that the challenges but also the priorities of Cayman can be recognized in our approach to these important issues.
“There is the issue of Brexit: Yes we are committed to fulfilling our mandate to the British people on leaving the European Union on the target date which is the 31st of October, but in doing so I have directly set up engagement with our British Overseas Territories to ensure that in our negotiations with the European Union on our important future partnership, the priorities, as the British overseas territories see them, are also reflected.”
In response to a question concerning the continuity between commitments to the Cayman Islands made between the last UK Prime Minister and the next one, Lord Ahmad said:
“The requirement of the British Government is at the end of 2020 is that any territory that has not yet announced its intention to create a public register, we are obligated now through Parliament to issue an Order in Council. However, in essence we are looking at is building on the positive relationship we have with the OT’s to ensure that can be done in a very constructive way.
I know both the individuals who (are likely to be) the next Prime Minister; former Foreign Secretary Mr. Johnson, and Current Foreign Secretary Mr. Hunt, Mr. Johnson’s views reflect the views I have already articulated, and the current Foreign Secretary Mr. Hunt) also has the same views.
“There will be challenges; and we have to ensure that, working with the Overseas Territories, we present a robust case to our parliamentary colleagues to ensure that the essence of the ability of the Overseas Territories working forward on these important issues is not just sustained but strengthened.”