Have questions about Brexit? Government will seek answers

The British and European flags fly outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in central London. - Photo: AP

The Cayman Islands government will seek answers to residents’ questions regarding the pending departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, officials announced Thursday.

The government will also send what it considers to be “constructive” commentary or suggestions through to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office via an email address set up for that purpose.

However, for those who simply want to express their disagreement with the idea of “Brexit” or a British exit from the EU, please do not use this forum, London Office Director Eric Bush said.

“They may have that opinion … but that’s not the intent of this,” he said. “It’s to give people an avenue to share what questions they think we should have answered.”

Mr. Bush, who leaves for the U.K. to take up his new post Friday, urged Cayman residents to submit comments on or questions about Brexit to a government email address, [email protected]

He said he was keen to get as many perspectives in as possible before the U.K. conservatives select new leadership to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, an event which is expected to happen on or before Sept. 9.

He said the London office would do its best to get responses to Brexit questions in a timely manner.

The Brexit issue has been discussed during the past two days with British Overseas Territories representatives in London Thursday, and in a ministerial-level discussion that occurred between Premier Alden McLaughlin and U.K. Overseas Territories Minister James Duddridge Wednesday.

At this stage, Mr. Bush said, there is not much more Cayman Islands representatives can glean from Britain on Brexit’s aftermath, simply because the leadership is not in place and the split has not officially occurred.

“We need to understand what the legal structure is going to look like,” Mr. Bush said. “For example, right now we’re tied into the European Court of Human Rights … is that going to change?”

In most cases, Cayman’s highest court of appeal is the Privy Council in the U.K. However, for certain human rights issues, a further appeal may be heard by the European Court of Human Rights. U.K. officials are unable to answer the overseas territory’s questions about the application of that court and its rulings, Mr. Bush said.

Issues regarding free movement, which are a key point in the negotiations between the U.K. and EU leaders now, could also end up affecting Caymanians.

“Will we require visas to go to France?” Mr. Bush asked. “Free trade may be an area where there are concerns as well.”

There are other matters, such as the implementation of EU-style data protection legislation, which Cayman has sought to adopt in order to allow its financial services industry easier access to European markets. Would Cayman still require that legislation if the U.K. leaves the EU?

“That’s a good question,” Mr. Bush said.

As far as the meeting with U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office Overseas Territories Director Peter Hayes Thursday, Mr. Bush said there were ultimately “no big surprises.”

“Most of what he said had already been reported in the U.K. press,” he said.

Last week’s narrow victory for the “leave” campaign in Britain sent shockwaves through international stock markets, but by Wednesday there were signs of some stabilization.

The British pound also recovered some ground against the U.S. dollar at the mid-week, but was still close to its lowest value since 1985.

Britain’s stock market had largely recouped its losses since the Thursday, June 23 Brexit vote, the Associated Press reported.

Although it is estimated the full separation of the U.K. from the EU will take at least two years, there may have to be some medium-term changes in the way Cayman’s London office operates.

The core function of the Cayman Islands London Office, to improve and enhance the territory’s relationship with the U.K., will not be affected by Brexit, Mr. Bush said. However, it may change how Cayman handles its relationship with Europe.

Britain handles all such international diplomatic relationships on behalf of its overseas territories, but Mr. Bush said Cayman may, if it is economically feasible and practically desirable, decide to operate its own European office.