Premier: Changes ‘not a first step’ to independence

Although Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin did lobby British Prime Minister Theresa May last week about changing the governing relationship between Cayman and the U.K., the premier said this week that his proposals should not be taken as “a first step toward independence.”

“This is a further effort to prescribe what the U.K. parliament is able to legislate for the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

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Under the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, the territory is given what’s known as “full internal self-governance” – meaning elected Cabinet members now have direct responsibility for every aspect of the local government. The exceptions to that are the special areas of responsibility maintained by the U.K.-appointed governor.

The governor’s special areas of responsibility are the civil service, external affairs and security.

“Seeking to impose public registers … is a distinct domestic issue,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “The U.K. is under no obligation to impose public registers. We need further safeguards to limit the ability of the U.K. parliament to legislate for us in areas which they have no business doing.”

Mr. McLaughlin said those pronouncements were in no way a foreshadowing of Cayman’s intention to break away from the Mother Country.

Although he has stated many times that the independence of Cayman and other British Overseas Territories is likely inevitable at some stage, the premier said any future move toward that must be done carefully and thoughtfully.

“We need to be prepared as much as we possibly can,” he said. “I personally am concerned about the viability of a country of 65,000 people as an independent nation in this big, bad world.”

In the meantime, Mr. McLaughlin said Cayman should “exploit” – positively – its relationship with the U.K. while it attempts restrict Britain’s ability to “push us down roads we do not want to go.”

The premier said Prime Minister May and senior Conservative MP David Lidington agreed to “begin this dialogue” following meetings last week.