Incoming governor Martyn Roper could be the last head of state in the Cayman Islands to be unilaterally appointed by the U.K., if the islands’ government gets its way.
Premier Alden McLaughlin’s government is in ongoing talks with U.K. officials over constitutional reform aimed at affording Cayman greater independence while remaining part of the United Kingdom.
In a written submission to a U.K. parliament Foreign Affairs Select Committee last week, the government made a number of recommendations, including that the Cayman Islands be granted power of veto over the U.K.’s choices of governor.
The submission, which outlines some of the Cayman Islands government’s wishes for its future relationship with the U.K., suggests the appointment process for future governors should mirror that of state governors in Australia, who are directly appointed by the Crown, rather than through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It adds that the “appointment of the Governor be subject to the veto of Government of the Cayman Islands.”
The 17-page statement argues that the Cayman Islands, through its 2009 constitution, has developed more autonomy from the U.K. It adds, “The role of the Governor within the Cayman Islands has also not sufficiently evolved to match our democratic maturity, and we are still too far removed from both the appointment process and from the FCO/Governor relationship to establish whether or not domestic and external areas for which the FCO is responsible are being looked after comprehensively enough to support all of our government requirements and obligations.”
Both the Cayman Islands Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were among those asked to make written submissions to the parliamentary sub-committee, which is examining the future of the relationship between the U.K. and its overseas territories.
In its submission, Cayman’s government accuses the U.K. of an ad hoc approach to engagement with Cayman and says the structures underpinning the relationship are no longer “fit for purpose.”
They argue that the Cayman Islands should be treated as a partner by the U.K.
“It should be recognized that while the Cayman Islands since 2009 has been successfully operating under a new constitution, which gave us significantly more autonomy and devolved authority, the working relationship with the U.K. Government often means the Cayman Islands continues to be treated as a subordinate rather than a partner,” the submission states.
It also calls for safeguards to be put in place to prevent the U.K. parliament from “constitutional overreach” in the aftermath of the decision to mandate public beneficial ownership registries in the territories. The Cayman Islands is among several territories contesting that decision as unwarranted interference with domestic policy matters.
The paper also requests more respect and direct engagement from the U.K. for Cayman’s elected politicians.
“We are often left with the impression there is a view the British Overseas Territories are to be administered, rather than treated with respect as self-governing representative democracies in their own right,” the government wrote in the paper.
“The Prime Minister should afford the elected leaders of the British Overseas Territories the courtesy of individual meetings when they come to the U.K., as is the case with other heads of government,” the submission states.
The FCO’s submission suggests it is not in support of significant constitutional changes.
“The U.K. Government believes the current constitutional balance of powers is broadly the right one,” it states.
“As sovereign power, the U.K. must retain sufficient powers to enable us to discharge our constitutional and international responsibilities both to OT populations and in international fora.”
The FCO submission acknowledges that many governments from overseas territories felt that parliament had interfered in an area of devolved responsibility by mandating public beneficial ownership registers. It stated: “Some OTs have put forward proposals for constitutional reform to address this concern. Ministers have asked OT Governments to submit detailed written proposals for consideration, while making clear our position that we believe the current balance of powers is broadly the right one.”
It goes on to point out that the U.K. values its territories, but will not stand in their way if they wish to seek independence.
“The U.K. appreciates the OTs as a valued, long-term part of the British family. The position of successive U.K. governments over many decades is that any decision to terminate British sovereignty through independence should be on the basis of the clear and constitutionally expressed wish of the people of the relevant OT. Were this to happen, and where independence is a viable option, the U.K. would help to achieve it,” the FCO stated.