UK ‘white paper’ due out

A final draft of the document that will help guide the relationship between the United Kingdom and its remaining overseas territories over the next decade is expected to be made public later today, Monday, 25 June.

The “white paper” document was set to be revealed in UK Parliament in May, but “pressures on the parliamentary timetable” has required the date to be moved back, representatives of Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor’s office said.

Those representatives 
expect the proposal to be made public today.

The overseas territories, including the Cayman Islands, have separate constitutions and most territories have elected governments with varying responsibilities for domestic matters. The governor, who is appointed by and represents Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, retains responsibility for external affairs, internal security, defence and civil service.

“Since we came to office in 2010, this government has worked hard to reinvigorate the UK’s relationship with the overseas territories,” said Henry Bellingham, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Overseas Territories. “There are many people and groups who have an interest in the future of the overseas territories and can provide us with insight into how to develop the UK’s relationship with them.”

A white paper typically refers to an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are sometimes used by governments and businesses to educate readers and help facilitate decision-making by presenting information from sources deemed expert and based on relevant research.

The 1999 UK white paper, titled “Partnership for Progress and Prosperity, Britain and the Overseas Territories”, focused largely on citizenship, sustainable development, human rights, drug trafficking and financial accountability.

An abbreviated public consultation process held last year resulted in a number of recommendations made by Caymanians and others regarding where the relationship with the UK should go.

A survey conducted locally by an appointed committee noted that most respondents did not favour independence from the UK and the 2012 “white paper” is not expected to suggest that.

During a recent visit to the Cayman Islands, Mr. Bellingham said the current UK coalition government intended to “engage”, essentially take a more active role in the territories than the previous Labour Party government had done.

“We believe in self-determination,” he said “[But] if you want to remain British … we will cherish that.”

The minister said he had been impressed with a financial services industry which was “the envy of most other countries in the world” and that his government wished to encourage more trade between the Cayman Islands and the UK.

He said he would encourage more UK companies to do business in Cayman, and improve communications links between those companies, local universities, professional bodies and England.