Leaders from across Britain’s overseas territories are meeting in Grand Cayman Wednesday to discuss joint concerns ahead of meetings with the UK government in London later this year.
Threats to the financial services industry and concerns over the constitutional relationship with the UK are among the key issues for some of the Caribbean territories, including the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands.
But with a diverse range of islands falling under the British umbrella, including Gibraltar and the Falklands, a wide schedule of topics is expected to be under discussion during the talks at the Kimpton Seafire Resort.
The meetings will be immediately followed by a joint UK and Overseas Territories trade summit, also at the Kimpton, where emerging opportunities in the fintech sector and the ‘blue economy’ will be discussed.
British Overseas Territories Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon will be in the Cayman Islands for a three-day visit to coincide with the summit and the arrival of British naval ship RFA Mounts Bay, which is on disaster relief duty in the region, and will perform a training exercise on Seven Mile Beach on Friday.
Lord Ahmad will host a meeting with the overseas territories leaders on the implications of Brexit later on Friday.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness is also scheduled to attend some of the week’s events and hold bilateral talks with Lord Ahmad.
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, who will chair the meeting of overseas territories leaders, said in a statement, “Each Overseas Territory is different, but these meetings afford us an opportunity to discuss the various ways in which we can work together. Through this meeting we will agree on an agenda and strengthen our collective position for the full JMC meeting later this year in London.”
Topics on the agenda include a joint Caribbean overseas territories-wide oil spill clean-up strategy, oceans policy, the emerging fintech industry and the threats and challenges of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.
Roy Tatum, head of the Office of the Premier, said, “We all see the opportunities that Brexit and the UK’s Global Britain initiative can bring if we put ourselves in the best possible position to take advantage of them. However, there are some territories, such as Falklands, Tristan de Cunha and Gibraltar, who have direct trade relationships with various EU countries and who have concerns about the impact on their economies post Brexit.”
He said there were also implications for some project funding arrangements that would need to be addressed.
The controversial Foreign Affairs Committee report, which recommended an order in council on same-sex marriage and called for British citizens to be given the right to vote and run for office in overseas territories, is also on the agenda.
The UK government has since dismissed the bulk of the report’s findings, indicating the policies outlined were devolved matters for the territories to deal with themselves. Nonetheless, the report remains a concern for many territories and will dominate two discussion sessions on Wednesday.
The trade summit begins Thursday and coincides with the weekend celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Cayman’s first written constitution.
Eric Bush, the chief officer in Cayman’s new trade Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, said the summit was an important first step towards identifying opportunities for economic diversification.
He said there were opportunities for the territories to access the UK’s network of global trade links to grow new industries, such as fintech, healthcare and the blue economy.
Dr. Devi Shetty, founder of Health City Cayman Islands, has been invited to talk about medical tourism, but the summit will be mostly confined to government leaders and officials.
Though there are areas of competition between some of the territories, particularly over fintech, Bush said the various countries had been willing to share expertise and experience of ‘best practice’ in these emerging industries.
Lord Ahmad’s three-day visit will include meetings with Cabinet and the Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean, as well as a visit to Cayman Brac.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Mounts Bay will also be in port and Lord Ahmad will be on Seven Mile Beach to witness an exercise to land disaster relief equipment from the ship.
Governor Martyn Roper welcomed the visit.
He said, “The Trade Summit will explore areas where the UK and the Overseas Territories can work more closely together to develop export and inward investment opportunities. Senior representatives from the department of International Trade and its business delivery partners in the USA and China will be present.
“It is also great that Lord Ahmad will be here to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Constitution and discuss cooperation on disaster management.”