The two-day British Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London ended on Wednesday with a communiqué underlining self determination, (plus commitment to counter hostile sovereignty claims), constitutional relationship, disaster recovery, --following the sweeping damages caused by hurricanes--, tax transparency and Brexit.
On Brexit it said, UK will take all steps to ensure continuity and legal certainty in arrangements between the UK and OTs, as well as preserving and strengthening, post Brexit, the security and economic sustainability of OTs. Further on it mentions that UK acknowledged the importance of EU funding for sustainable economic development in some OTs and committed to ensuring that these interests were fully reflected in the UK’s negotiating position.
The Falkland Islands were represented at the JMC by MLA Teslyn Barkman, MLA Roger Edwards, and Falklands government representative in London, Sukey Cameron, OBE. The round of contacts and discussions included meeting PM Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, and Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan who chaired JMC attended by leaders from ten OTs.
The communiqué said, “The principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories. We reaffirmed the importance of promoting the right of the peoples of the Territories to self-determination, a collective responsibility of all parts of the UK Government.
“We committed to explore ways in which the Overseas Territories can maintain international support in countering hostile sovereignty claims. For those Territories with permanent populations who wish it, the UK will continue to support requests for the removal of the Territory from the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.
“The UK and the Overseas Territories have a unique constitutional relationship, built on a shared history, common values and a spirit of collaboration and partnership.
“We agreed that the fundamental structure of our constitutional relationships was the right one – powers are devolved to the elected governments of the Territories to the maximum extent possible consistent with the UK retaining those powers necessary to discharge its sovereign responsibilities.
“We agreed the need to continue our engagement on these issues to ensure that constitutional arrangements work and develop effectively to promote the best interests of the Territories and of the UK.
“The UK and the Overseas Territories reiterated a message of support and solidarity with the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the strongest ever seen in the Caribbean. We applauded the courage and resilience of the people of the affected Territories.
“We acknowledged the important UK contribution to the response effort, through the effective deployment of Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay to BVI and Anguilla and deployment of military personnel, aid experts and Rapid Deployment Teams across the Territories, representing a total investment of £62m in relief.
“We also applauded the important support offered by Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar, through provision of personnel, supplies, equipment and funds for recovery, underlining the close cooperation and mutual affection that exists between the Territories. We acknowledged the important role played by neighboring Caribbean states and regional organizations in the relief effort.
“The UK reiterated its commitment to work in partnership with governments of the affected Territories to put in place plans and structures for longer term reconstruction and sustainable economic recovery. The UK committed to assisting the Overseas Territories in their recovery and to increase their future economic resilience. We underlined that the commitment to developing resilience applied in all Territories.
“We welcomed the recent announcement of a further £15m of UK support for early recovery after the hurricane, which is delivering accelerated power reconnection, support to prisons, repairs to airports and assistance for policing, and the Prime Minister’s announcement of a further £70m in grants and up to £300m in loan guarantees to support long-term reconstruction in the Territories worst affected.
“We discussed the important role played by the private sector in driving economic recovery, including in supporting training and development and making available appropriate insurance.
“We further reiterated the importance of all Overseas Territories ensuring they have comprehensive national risk assessments, disaster preparedness policies and processes in place and that these are regularly exercised, reviewed and modified where needed to ensure they remain fit for purpose. The UK reiterated its continued commitment to providing technical expertise and support for capacity building.
Exit from the European Union [EU]
“We continued our dialogue on the implications for the Overseas Territories of the UK’s decision to exit the EU. The position on UK sovereignty of the Overseas Territories is not changed by EU exit. The UK reiterated its assurance that it will never enter arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
“The UK is responsible for representing the Overseas Territories’ priorities in exit negotiations. A clear objective of the negotiations is to achieve a deal that works for all parts of the UK family. We will seek to ensure the security and economic sustainability of the Overseas Territories is preserved and, where possible, strengthened post Brexit. The UK will also take all steps to ensure continuity and legal certainty in arrangements between the UK and the OTs.
“We underlined our aspiration for a close partnership between the Overseas Territories, the Overseas Countries and Territories and Outermost Regions of the EU after Brexit and supported the Territories’ participation, where appropriate, in regional forums and initiatives promoting dialogue and cooperation.
“The UK acknowledged the importance of EU funding for sustainable economic development in some OTs and committed to ensuring that these interests were fully reflected in the UK’s negotiating position. As the Prime Minister said in her Florence speech, the UK will honor the commitments it has made during its membership of the EU.
Beneficial Ownership and Tax Transparency
“We welcomed progress made by the Overseas Territories with financial services centers in implementing the arrangements set out in the Exchange of Notes for law enforcement exchange of Beneficial Ownership information, including establishing new and secure systems for the collection, exchange and use of beneficial ownership data, where these did not already exist.
“We committed, where not already achieved, to expedite work to ensure that the new systems were fully operational and populated. We also committed to review the effectiveness of the new arrangements six months from the implementation deadline, to ensure we meet our agreed objectives.
“We welcomed the Overseas Territories’ cooperation in international efforts to promote tax transparency and tackle financial crime, including through upcoming Caribbean Financial Action Task Force [CFATF] reviews in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
“We further welcomed the Territories’ constructive engagement with the EU Code of Conduct Group [COCG] as well the first meeting of the Global Forum for Asset Recovery. We recognized the need for dialogue with the EU COCG to demonstrate the value the Overseas Territories provide to the global economy within a framework of transparency.”