Voices of discontent over British rule are growing louder across the U.K.’s overseas territories in the wake of the controversial decision to mandate public beneficial ownership registries.

In the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda, as in Cayman, the decision is seen not only as a threat to the islands’ economies but as an affront to their right to self-government on domestic matters.

While there is no immediate push for full independence from the U.K., representatives from Bermuda and the BVI told the Cayman Compass that the beneficial ownership controversy had accelerated the conversation in those territories.

In the Cayman Islands, where there has traditionally been little political appetite for independence, politicians are seeking constitutional reform. Premier Alden McLaughlin met with U.K. government representatives and legal advisers in London earlier this month, to push for changes that would remove the U.K.’s reserved powers to legislate for Cayman.

The Cayman Islands, in effect, is asking for what Bermuda already has.

While in Cayman for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference, Thomas Christopher Famous, an MP from Bermuda, told the Compass that Bermuda’s constitution puts it in a stronger position than other territories when it comes to challenging the U.K. over beneficial ownership.

“We have said no, we are not doing it. We are not going to take orders from England. We will open up our books when everybody else does, when it becomes a global standard. Our constitution is a little bit different to the Cayman Islands. It is 50 years old and provides for self-government. We can’t be governed by Westminster,” he said.

He believes similar leverage is unlikely to be granted to the Cayman Islands before 2020 – the deadline set by the U.K. for its territories to introduce public beneficial ownership registers or have it imposed on them through an order in council.

“Let’s be realistic,” he added.

“If Britain is telling the overseas territories, we want you to open up your books, they are not going to give you a constitution that allows you to say no. They may give it to you afterwards, but not by 2020.”

He warned that even with a stronger constitution, Bermuda would have to fight, potentially through the courts, to defend its right to self-governance.

“If Britain really wants us to open the books, they are not going to back off. We will have to fight and say our constitution doesn’t allow it, but that is still going to be their desire.”

Mr. Famous believes Bermuda and other overseas territories will ultimately have to push for independence if they want to control their own destinies.

“I personally feel Bermuda is heading towards total sovereignty because the U.K. will, in one way or another, continue to impose its will on us,” he said.

Though independence is a stated long-term goal of Mr. Famous’s party, the Progressive Labour Party, the island’s Premier David Burt has indicated it is not on the immediate agenda.

Mr. Famous said the population was still split on the issue, but he believes more people are beginning to question the relationship with the U.K.

“People realize the days of being dictated to by England need to come to an end,” he added.

A similar atmosphere of discontent is fermenting in the British Virgin Islands, where residents boycotted the Queen’s Birthday celebrations in a show of protest against the U.K.

Many were already unhappy at the level of support they received from the U.K. in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

Ingrid Moses-Scatliffe, the speaker of the House in BVI, who was also in Cayman for the conference, said the U.K. law on beneficial ownership was another “direct hit” on the island, and had prompted new discussion on independence.

“I call it Hurricane U.K.,” added Alvera Maduro-Caines, another BVI politician in attendance at the conference.

She said the U.K. had given BVI a $400 million loan, which would have to be repaid, to help with rebuilding after the hurricane.

“Now they are trying to shut down the industry that would have helped us be able to pay it back,” she said.

The BVI derives 60 percent of its government income from financial services. The islands’ leaders have indicated they will oppose any move toward introducing a public beneficial ownership registry until it becomes a global standard.

Ms. Moses-Scatliffe said the BVI had a constitution which guarantees autonomy on domestic matters and was preparing to challenge the order in court.

She said independence was a difficult issue in the BVI, but many now feel it is something that has to be discussed.

“We haven’t had a serious discussion on self-determination but all these matters have come together and that is starting to happen. We have to have a conversation so that persons are not afraid of what they don’t know,” she said.

1 COMMENT

  1. Mr Ashley , I’ll give you a few more questions to answer and hope you do better this time . How would C.I be able to support it self , if it becomes independent ? Can the C.I militarily defend it self ? What will happen , if the C.I became independent ? I look forward to your reply .

    • I will try to give you answers :

      How will CI support itself – probably in exactly the same way it has for years – by offering those who seek it, a home for their funds under terms of secrecy and away from the prying eyes of their home tax authorities
      In terms of ‘defending itself …. I can assure you that no one is interested in Cayman in terms of invading it. You are more likely to become a haven for drugs as well as illicit funds which is why you will need an effective Caymanian police service without any ex pat officers or leaders. (BTW: I have a great deal of time for the RCIPS but if you take out ex pat officers and leaders, I am not convinced there is a sufficient pool of potential recruits to fill the gaps). For an example, look at Singapore – not much in the way of an army but a very efficient police service backed up by a Government that provides it with laws to ensure prosperity.

      In return for answering your questions, perhaps you will have the courtesy of answering mine:

      1. What does the UK get from the relationship with CI?
      2. How much does it cost the UK?
      3. How many Caymanians are members of the UK armed forces (the ones who ‘defend’ CI)?

      As a UK citizen but one who works in CI, I am sick and tired of the bleating of CI’s politicians who want everything their way on their terms. Well, Premier McLaughlin and your friends in BVI and Bermuda – If you don’t like the party, LEAVE and find another party to go to. As your post demonstrates very well, you only see the CI side – what if the UK decided to walk away from CI and its other Overseas Territories?

      Mr Marvel makes some interesting points in relation to a Caribbean wide collective. See how you get on with Jamaica.

      • Mr. Ashley I will answer your questions.
        1. a very rich territory of the world to have under the UK control .
        2. not sure, but I will refer you to the Premier for that one .
        3. not many today , but I am sure if the UK asked they will get many .

        • 1. Does any of that wealth flow to the U.K.? No, it remains firmly in the hands of the financial institutions that run the show
          2. Far, far too much when the U.K. has faced 8+ years of austerity
          3. At the last count less than the fingers of one hand. And why should the U.K. ask? Is it not a responsibility of CI to encourage young men and women to meet the challenges of ‘protecting CI’ or is the protection you demand not your responsibility?

  2. Mr. Ebanks, there are multiple untapped income streams that can be pursued which would address your questions on how we will be able to support ourselves once we become independent.

    In fact, I’ve personally spent the better part of a year researching, compiling and analysing data into a business plan where estimated income is from $549 million up to $686 million per year.

    So there will be enough to revenue to see that our national security matters, a fully funded International Baccalaureate school system and other concerns will finally become a reality with no more years of debate.

    To put this into perspective, as a “young adult” still living at home working good money but not having to “pay rent” to Mother so to speak, we need to start having the discussion with Mother that we will be moving out.

    It’s inevitable.

    And as the article pointed out, I think we have no choice but to work together as a Caribbean region, whose 28 countries represents a population of approximately 24 MILLION CITIZENS (excluding Cuba’s 11 million) so that we can come to the table in a unified position of strength.

  3. Mr. M Ebanks , while I understand what you are saying . How far is $686 million dollars income are going to go , when you have other major expenses that would have to be included when becoming a independent country . One major chunk out of the $686 million income , a military force would have to be done . We wouldn’t be able to depend on other Islands to defend us , because we would be INDEPENDENT OF THEM , then what happens if Cuba decides to invade and take over the Cayman Islands ? Are the other Caribbean Islands able to go up against the Cuban military force to protect us , NO . But today how long would it take for the British fleet to be to our rescue ? not long .

    I agree that all the OT should become unified and be a unified force , but independence is not the answer.

    • If Cuba invaded, unlike 1982 where the British Government and people had a collective desire to defend the Falklands in the face of the Argentinian invasion, there would be NO groundswell of support for CI who are seen by the majority of Brits to be nothing more than a rich offshore financial territory. And remember, this was a British event, one that Britain’s NATO allies, did not contribute to, seeing it as a British issue.

      Unless, at that precise moment, the then incumbent Prime Minister needed a ‘victory’ (as Thatcher did in 1982) then there will not be a fleet coming to your rescue. Indeed, at the moment the UK does not have a fleet to defend itself – we have an aircraft carrier (one only!) with no aircraft and a Destroyer Fleet that spends most of its time in harbour because the engines aren’t very good in warmer climes!).

      Independence is not YOUR answer because, currently, it allows you to have your cake and eat it. Independence might be the UK’s answer…….

      • Mr. Ashley , I think you ate your cake and have it too . If my memory serves me correctly of the Falklands crisis, is that Great Britain defeated Argentina and the Falklands is still under the UK , I also believe that the UK has the responsibility to defend and protect the Cayman Islands , regardless of how rich the Island are, and just can’t tell the Cayman Islands “you have to become independent “. Before you start talking anymore about independence, STOP and look at the Caribbean Island Puerto Rico that is about 3 times size of Cayman, and look at their situation .

        • The point I was making is that in 1982 almost the entire U.K. population supported the action against the Argentinians whereas, now, you would not get much support to protect a rich offshore financial centre

          AND

          in any case, the U.K. no longer has the capacity to carry out ‘gun boat diplomacy’

  4. I think that we should drop the subject of INDEPENDENCE, because that would upset and wake up our deceased founding fathers that worked so hard to keep us out of it, and being in the same shoe as Jamaica .

    • So if we drop the idea of independence, Mr. Ebanks, what do you recommend Cayman does when England continues to make laws for us that the majority of Caymanians vote by a national people-initiated referendum that we don’t want?

      It’s starting by England effectively calling for the assured end of our financial services industry since they ordered Cayman to open up its beneficial ownership register for public inspection…when England, the USA or none of our competitors do it and it’s not a global standard.

      Ms. Marvel Ebanks

      • Ms. Ebanks , first of all, I will apologize for using Mr Ebanks to address you .
        But in your comment , you said that you spent the better part of the year researching and compiling data in a business plan and found an estimated $686 millions of income .
        Could you please explain to the public, where you found that income , and who and what prompted you to do that business case /plan ?
        I think that the Cayman Islands needs to be very careful and cautious about going into becoming INDEPENDENT . I don’t see a bright future in it .

        • Apology accepted, Mr. Ebanks.

          Without a doubt, the UK made the nuclear option for us to have the discussion to become independent when they voted in THEIR parliament for us to basically be the only country in the world to open up public access to our beneficial ownership registry, telling us that if we refused, they would do it against us anyway.

          Well, that’s never going to happen when it is NOT a global standard, and since we were given no other option, I fully support leaving the UK to prevent them from arbitrarily destroying at will our coveted financial services industry.

          Having said that, Mr. Ebanks, I absolutely agree with you that our road to independence “needs to be careful and cautious”, if independence is voted and passed in a people-initiated referendum.

          If independence is the path that we the people vote to travel, then there’s already established frameworks in place to guide us, and in my opinion, government has a long way to go before they show an exceptional adherence to good governance and vigorous enforcement of our laws.

          Now regarding your questions about my research where economic solutions were found on a national level, government was approached but an appointment was never given.

          Goodness knows that the American government handled it differently with Dr. Jonas Salk, the “Father of Biophilosophy”, who discovered the polio vaccine but refused to patent or profit in that extreme way and offered it up for the greater good.

          I also approached an attorney who was amazed with the business plan and questioned me to get a better understanding about my Memorandum of Understanding with my overseas experts and about certain operational procedures.

          Mr. Ebanks, business administration is what I was trained to do and I intend on finishing my Masters degree in Law within the next two years. I saw a need, I knew a solution, and I was an unemployed degreed Caymanian with a lot of time on my hands to do the research since there was no job for me when I kept applying.

          So I turned my lemons into a sweet lemonade and wanted to share, but I guess that is unheard of with some people nowadays. This is a different Cayman now than what I was raised in, and I most certainly don’t have a greed problem.

          Nevertheless, I know my value, and I know the value of what this could do for my country.

          I also know that I wouldn’t even know how to spend $686 million per year, but I also know that a lot is left to be desired to recklessly turn over something this valuable for government to run, because I already see how they run our “trillion pound” paradise, as the UK press loves to call us. We can’t even get road services or our garbage collection right on a day to day basis.

          So perhaps it can be pursued again at a later time if need be. This is only one of many solutions that can guarantee Cayman’s economic prosperity. Cayman just has to get its act together, and we have no choice but to begin having these independence discussions now that the UK is forcing us to.

          With no other options given to us by the UK, this was an obvious decision to make because if they get away with this, you can be guaranteed the UK won’t stop here.