UK’s departure from the European Union

Governor Martyn Roper

This is the first in a series of columns Governor Martyn Roper will be contributing to the Cayman Compass.

Governor Martyn Roper

It is three and half years since the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. A period of uncertainty is behind us as Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party decisively won the UK election in December last year. With a strong mandate to ‘get Brexit done’, and the largest majority in Parliament since Mrs. Margaret Thatcher in 1987, the UK will leave the European Union on 31 Jan. 2020.

Up until now, discussions around the UK’s exit have had little direct impact on the Cayman Islands. After 31 Jan., I do not expect that to change. 

The UK’s long-standing historical links and constitutional relationship with Cayman, and other Overseas Territories, is unaffected. Indeed, with a Conservative government and large majority in power for five, possibly 10 years, I expect stability and continuity in UK/Cayman relations.

The UK wants the closest possible links with our European partners. But under Global Britain, an outward-looking Britain – as a force for good in the world – will increasingly look beyond Europe. I believe that is an opportunity for Cayman and the Overseas Territories to develop an even stronger relationship with the UK in the future.   

On the impact of Brexit, people ask me about travelling to Europe, trade, financial services and EU financial support.

On travel, there is no impact for British Overseas Territory Citizens (BOTCs) as their rights do not come from the UK’s membership of the EU. Those rights will not change as a direct result of Brexit. BOTC passport holders will still be able to visit EU countries visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. British Citizen passport holders will be able to continue to live, work and study in the EU throughout the implementation period, which runs to 31 Dec. 2020. European Union branding on British Citizen passports will not affect their validity after Brexit.

There will be little trade impact on the Cayman Islands’ economy because the vast majority of Cayman’s imports come from outside the EU. 2020 is a transition year for trade links between UK and EU. Nothing changes until a new trade agreement is in place.   

I understand concerns that from February, the UK will no longer be around the EU table to speak on behalf of Cayman’s financial services industry. However, the UK will find other ways to represent Cayman’s interests, including bilateral lobbying of the European Commission through the UK Mission in Brussels and in EU capitals.   

As a highly sophisticated, financially self-sufficient and well-run British Overseas Territory, Cayman does not receive much EU financial support, apart from some environmental funding. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU-funded projects in the OTs will continue to be covered by the EU for their duration. 

So what are the opportunities for Cayman under Global Britain?

I strongly support the premier’s vision in setting up the new Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs. My office is working closely with the new ministry.

I very much hope the Cayman Islands government will take space at the UK Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 – a major international trade fair. It would put Cayman on a global stage in front of a huge audience of heads of government, business leaders, companies and celebrities, as well as the general public.

The UK government has offered technical support for an international marketing campaign based on the UK’s highly successful GREAT campaign.

This will showcase the wonderful biodiversity that Cayman has to offer and support our tourism and financial services sectors.

As the UK leaves the European Union, there may be scope to develop closer links between the financial services industry and the City of London.

Leaving the EU is a change of historic proportions for the UK. Lord Ahmad, UK Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, has asked me to assure you that the UK government is absolutely committed to supporting the security and prosperity of everyone on these Islands. 

The UK is heading into the next phase of the negotiations with the EU. As well as taking up the opportunities afforded by Brexit, including the ability to negotiate our own trade agreements around the world, the ongoing priority for UK Ministers is to continue to ensure that the voices of Cayman and the Overseas Territories are heard and that OTs’ priorities inform the government’s approach every step of the way.

As governor, I will work closely with the premier and members of Cabinet to ensure our views are fully taken into account.