Fresh off an embarrassing legislative revolt among his own party during a parliamentary vote that sought to force public company ownership registers on British Overseas Territories, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told a London audience Monday night that Cayman would remain part of the United Kingdom.
Secretary Johnson’s remarks were made at an evening event held to celebrate the 60-year anniversary of the Cayman Islands coat of arms, assigned to the territory by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on May 14, 1958.
More than 400 people attended the event at Durbar Court at the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office headquarters, including leaders from the U.K. and the overseas territories, Caymanian students studying abroad and Cayman business representatives.
Referring to the Cayman coat of arms, Mr. Johnson noted: “The turtle, the pineapple and the rope, all supported by what? The British Lion.
“The Cayman Islands is, has been, will be part of the United Kingdom. Here’s to another 60 glorious years, if not more.”
The remarks came two weeks after a May 1 vote in the U.K. House of Commons that amended Britain’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to force British Overseas Territories – but not U.K. Crown Dependencies – to make registers of company owners public. The amendment to the bill will require all 14 remaining British territories to make beneficial ownership of companies registered in their respective jurisdictions public.
Cayman has such a registry now, but it can only be inspected by certain personnel for the purposes of specific law enforcement or tax compliance requests. The territorial leadership, including Premier Alden McLaughlin, does not support the creation of a public company registry. However, according to the legislation, if the territories do not adopt the prescribed measures, the U.K. government will draft orders in council to force the territories to make company registers public.
According to a number of veteran financial services industry professionals in Cayman, such a move would put Cayman’s primary money-making industry at a severe competitive disadvantage.
Premier McLaughlin, acknowledging his disappointment at the May 1 vote in the Commons, sought to strike a conciliatory tone at Tuesday night’s event in London.
“Our financial services are among the best in the world and it was truly heartening to me to hear the foreign secretary this evening underline the point that the U.K. government is still soundly behind and soundly supportive of the Cayman Islands and what they do and what they stand for,” the premier said.
Mr. McLaughlin also rejected the idea of Cayman’s independence any time soon: “In any family, there are disagreements from time to time, but that has not shaken our belief in our foundation as a British Overseas Territory. We have been British for 360 years. I do believe independence, like my death, is inevitable. But, like my death, I hope it not to be soon.”
Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, who also attended Monday evening’s event in the U.K., noted Mr. Johnson’s commitment as a “highlight of the evening.”
Mr. McLaughlin has remained in the U.K. this week following the celebratory events on Monday and Tuesday around the coat of arms anniversary. He said last week that he intended to use the trip to meet with U.K. officials in the wake of the May 1 House of Commons vote. He said he has written to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to request a meeting as well.