COVID cooperation points to Cayman’s post-Brexit relationship with UK

André Ebanks, Cayman’s government representative in the UK, believes the level of cooperation between Cayman and the UK during the COVID pandemic should form the basis for their future relationship.

Speaking on a panel at the Virtual Island Summit on Saturday, Ebanks said “the coordinated, caring, careful, hands-on” approach between Cayman and the UK “to get things done and preserve life” during the pandemic had forged a bond of trust that will not be forgotten quickly.

Ebanks quoted a statement by Governor Martyn Roper made in August to define the opportunities for the Cayman-UK relationship after Brexit.

Roper said, given that the UK will be hosting the UN’s Climate Change Summit COP 26 in Glasgow next year, he is talking to Premier Alden McLaughlin and Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour about a closer Cayman-UK compact to set out areas of cooperation. “This once-in-a-century health crisis is a once-in-a-century opportunity to reshape the world our children will inherit. Cayman should be a part of that. We shouldn’t waste it,” Ebanks noted Roper said on 25 Aug.

Ebanks said the overarching opportunity for environmental action “in the midst of COVID is to harness the bonds forged through this pandemic, to build a meaningful way forward as to what exactly global Britain means and what it means we are as a family”.

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The head of Cayman’s UK office said he is working in partnership with the UK to agree achievable environmental priorities and identify funding streams.

Prior to Brexit, much of the funding related to climate change, marine biodiversity and sustainable energy in the Overseas Territories came from the European Union. This funding is unlikely to be replaced in full by the UK, conference participants noted.

Unlike EU funding, UK support is also typically limited to low-income countries, meaning that many Caribbean territories would automatically not qualify.

Benito Wheatley, a special envoy of the British Virgin Islands premier, said all Overseas Territories are small islands with coastal communities deserving of these funds. To build environmental resilience overall, funding structures should therefore be changed, so that all Overseas Territories are eligible.

Ebanks said he is also exploring ways in which London’s financial services industry can work with its Cayman counterpart through organisations such as the City of London Corporation.

One of Cayman’s contributions in the UK’s ‘global Britain’ approach post-Brexit could be developing niche markets, for example, as the domicile of choice for environmental, social, governance (ESG) investment vehicles.

“Climate actions are going to cost money,” Ebanks said. “Cayman has mastered putting together well-regulated investment funding vehicles and getting them to market efficiently. That could be one of our global contributions.”

According to research by Morningstar, ESG fund assets exceeded $1 trillion this year.

The vast majority of global ESG funds are based in Europe. In the second quarter of this year, European ESG funds attracted 86% of new capital.

This is expected to continue as the EU’s coronavirus relief package and its Green Deal will pour about EUR1.23 trillion into sustainable investments.

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