Premier Alden McLaughlin said the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made “a huge mistake” by marginalizing the influence that the elected Cayman Islands government has on national security matters.
We tend to agree that a mistake has been made by the U.K. — but the error, in our opinion, is in leading our local officials to believe that they should have more than an advisory role on the issue of “Cayman’s national security” (a phrase which, considering our status as a dependent territory, is in itself somewhat grandiose).
In regard to the Premier’s specific complaint — that our governor is expected to act in accordance with the advice of the National Security Council (composed of the governor, high-ranking officials, several elected members and two members of the public) — let us just say that his interpretation of the 2009 Constitution differs from our own reading.
The Constitution does say that “the Governor shall be obliged to act in accordance with the advice of the Council” — but here’s the catchall escape clause — “unless he or she considers that giving effect to the advice would adversely affect Her Majesty’s interest …” (emphasis ours).
It may seem counterintuitive on first consideration, but what makes it so effortless for our elected politicians to rail against the U.K.’s supremacy on various matters — such as policing, the nationality of our next police commissioner, beneficial ownership, LGBT rights, budget restrictions, or sentencing guidelines for murderers — is the U.K.’s unquestioned supremacy.
Cayman is a Crown Colony. Ultimately, what the U.K. says, goes. Our legislators are, therefore, free to grandstand all they want, without confronting the possibility of having to follow through on their demands or deal with the potential consequences.
The only real way to change the status quo is to change Cayman’s status from “territory” to “nation” — in other words, independence from Britain.
While contemplating a sovereign Cayman Islands may lead to an ephemeral thrill of cultural pride, side effects will almost certainly include population depletion, loss of prosperity and the concomitant plummeting of our standard of living. (Plus, of course, we’d lose about half the public holidays on our calendar.) Making a practical case for independence for Cayman is, in brief, impossible.
Here’s the ironclad case against: Cayman is a rather remote island of 60,000 people (half of whom aren’t Caymanian) with nearly no natural resources, and whose economy depends on our legal system (i.e., the police to keep crime low to encourage tourism and immigration, and the courts to provide assurance to outside financial investors), the stability of which is endowed by the U.K.
Rather than feeling marginalized by the U.K. as an entity with “second-class privileges,” we here in Cayman should recognize that the U.K. continues to grant us “special privileges.” One example is that Caymanians (who have British passports by virtue of living here) can pick up and move to the U.K. whenever they wish, and have the freedom to settle there, work there and take advantage of public social services there. The reverse does not hold true for British citizens wishing to move to Cayman.
Now, we aren’t saying that U.K. officials are perfect, or have always acted fairly toward Cayman. (One word: Tempura!) But, on the whole, the arrangement between Cayman and the U.K. is in our favor. All the U.K. seems to request in return, in addition to some occasional pressure on social issues, is for Cayman to remain fiscally solvent, and not to become a financial burden on our Mother Country. Two words — “contingent liabilities” — are enough to induce the onset of cardiac arrest throughout Westminster.
With a historically significant voter referendum set to take place in the U.K. this Thursday, many here are understandably engrossed in the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union.
But in the long term, the kind of “Brexit” that Cayman should most fear is if U.K. officials someday take up the offer extended by the voluble smattering of our homegrown “secessionists” … that is, if Britain ever exits from Cayman.