New foreign secretary, Brexit minister named
Geoffrey Cox, QC, best known in Cayman for his successful defense of former Premier McKeeva Bush during a 2014 criminal trial, has been confirmed as Britain’s attorney general following a partial Cabinet reshuffle in Prime Minister Theresa May’s coalition government.
The Cabinet changes were prompted by the resignations of Brexit Minister David Davis and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson amid the ongoing fallout over painful negotiations to separate the U.K. from the European Union.
U.K. MP’s Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab were named as the new foreign minister and Brexit minister, respectively.
The selection of Mr. Cox as the U.K.’s top lawyer was seen as a positive sign among Cayman’s representatives both at home and abroad.
“[Mr. Cox] is a good man, the likes of whom is not seen in those places,” Mr. Bush said Tuesday. “He doesn’t believe in hurting people, but believes in the rule of law and defends its true meeting. I know he is an honest man and will represent the U.K. fairly in all things.”
U.K. London office director Eric Bush pointed out that Mr. Cox was one of the MPs that spoke out against recently proposed amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in the House of Commons.
The bill, which was eventually approved and signed into law, requires British Overseas Territories – but not Crown Dependencies – to establish a public register of company ownership by December 2020. If the territories do not comply, the law requires the Secretary of State for foreign and commonwealth affairs to draft orders in council to force the territories to adopt such a register.
Cayman’s premier has vowed to fight an effort to implement such a change in the local courts.
During his debate on the bill’s amendment on May 1, Mr. Cox noted: “In 2009, we gave the people of the Cayman Islands a solemn pledge in this House. We said, ‘We will not legislate for you in these areas of public responsibility without your consent.’ By this measure today, we are breaking that promise to them, and it is beneath the dignity of this Parliament to do away with that promise and that pledge of good faith.”
Mr. Cox also spoke out against the actions of the U.K.-appointed governor of the Cayman Islands during Mr. Bush’s trial in 2014, alleging that former Governor Duncan Taylor had cynically tried to remove Mr. Bush’s United Democratic Party government of 2009-2012 from power.
“If there has been any misconduct in a public office, it has been from those who orchestrated and planned the subversion of a democratically elected premier in this territory,” Mr. Cox said during Mr. Bush’s October 2014 trial, during which the former premier was acquitted of corruption-related charges.
Former Governor Taylor has denied all such allegations and Mr. Bush has since filed a lawsuit against the former governor and ex-Police Commissioner David Baines, accusing the two men of conspiring to remove the former premier from office. That matter is still before the courts.
Although the new Cabinet positions were confirmed swiftly following Mr. Johnson’s sudden resignation, there remained significant speculation in the U.K. over whether the embattled prime minister could retain her hold on the coalition government.
Observers noted the moves could lead to a revolt among conservatives or even a new election, if the Brexit uncertainty could not be resolved.
“Brexit should be about opportunity and hope,” Mr. Johnson wrote in his resignation letter. “It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.
“That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt.”
Ms. May said she was “a little surprised” by Mr. Johnson’s decision, but felt it was right for him to resign if he could no longer provide the support needed to get a deal on Brexit.