Published 6th December 2018, 11:47am
LONDON - The two-day Joint Ministerial Council Meeting (JMC) between the British Overseas Territories and Her Majesty’s Government continued Wednesday at Lancaster House. Lord Ahmad started the day discussing Disaster Management with Imogen Parsons, Deputy Director of Readiness & Response – Civil Contingencies Secretariat, in attendance.
Lord Ahmad noted that the UK continues to coordinate disaster management planning across the Overseas Territories (OTs). This includes planning in the event of hurricanes as well as other disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, serious flooding, or volcanic activity. An annual planning and readiness meeting will also take place between the UK, OTs, and other Caribbean countries that wish to participate. It was also noted that the UK has improved its own plans to swiftly respond to disasters in the OTs.
OT leaders provided updates of their disaster preparedness, with those who were hit by hurricanes last year noting the progress made in recovery. They thanked the UK for the assistance in the rebuilding efforts and once again thanked the Cayman Islands and other territories that provided immediate assistance after the passage of hurricanes in 2017. Lord Ahmad said the UK appreciated the effort of Cayman and fellow territories to provide assistance.
Minister of Financial Services and Home Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers provided an update on work in the Cayman Islands to help enhance its resilience to natural disasters, as well as strengthen regional cooperation frameworks. This includes working with the Governor’s Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to pilot the FCO’s Crisis Hub, which is a tool to aid in evacuations and in tracking missing persons during disasters. The Cayman Islands has also agreed to participate in a formal regional Overseas Territory Rapid Deployment Team that can swiftly provide support for impacted territories. A second new specialist helicopter will be purchased with the assistance of the UK for use in the Cayman Islands as well as to participate with disaster relief in the Overseas Territories. The Cayman Islands has already begun implementing a National Emergency Notification System as well as upgrading the National Public Safety Radio Systems.
The session on Financial Services was attended by the Rt. Hon. Mel Stride, the Financial Secretary to the UK Treasury. The discussion centred on the European Union (EU) blacklisting process with Mr. Stride noting that the UK Government is committed to assisting OTs during the process. He said the UK has worked to ensure that the process is fair and to promote objectivity in the criteria used for assessment by the EU.
Several of the OTs encouraged the UK to continue its efforts with the EU, especially at the political level. Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said the Cayman Islands has been actively engaging with the EU throughout the process, and is on track to meet its commitment by the end of this year. All the OT’s and Crown Dependencies (CDs) were expected to meet economic substance requirements of the EU and the OECD/FHTP.
The conversation then moved to the UK’s goal to make public registers of beneficial ownership the global standard by 2023. It was noted that although the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act passed by the UK Parliament in May this year required that an Order-in-Council be issued by the end of 2020 requiring OTS (but not CDs) to implement public registers, the expectation of the UK is that such registers would be fully implemented and operational by 2023, and that the Order could be drafted as such.
The Premier also requested that the UK extend the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) to the Cayman Islands. This has been a request of the Cayman Islands for several years.
The afternoon session started with a discussion on Trade and Investment with Chris Bennett of the Caribbean Investment and Trade Advisory Group; and Conrad Bird, Director of the UK’s GREAT Campaign. Both provided a background to the work done by their respective organisations and encouraged the OT leaders to seek to determine how the organisations could work with the OTs on trade matters. The Cayman Islands participated in the UK’s GREAT Festival of Innovation in Hong Kong earlier this year and could attest to the benefit of attending.
The day ended with Chloe Smith, Parliamentary Secretary – Minister for the Constitution, leading the session on the Constitutional Relationship with the UK. In her introductory statement Ms Smith noted that the UK wants to have positive constitutional relationships with the OTs. She admitted to the challenge to the OTs and the relationship with the UK that the passage of the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Act in the UK Parliament caused earlier this year. She noted that she is eager to get the best constitutional options available for the people of the OTs, because it is people who are at the heart of the constitutional relationship. The aim, she said, is to recognise that the OTs are self-governing and subject only to the UK retaining power to carry out its obligations under international law.
Various territories provided their thoughts and several have started conversations to revise certain aspects of their constitutions with the UK.
The JMC ended with the OT leaders and FCO officials and members of the UK Government attending the Annual JMC Reception at the Locarno Suite at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Joining Premier McLaughlin were Minister Rivers; Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Hon. Joey Hew; Attorney General Hon, Samuel Bulgin; the Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller; Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo; and other members of the Cayman delegation. Premier McLaughlin gave a closing address on behalf of the OTs and welcomed HRH The Duke of York who was the guest of honour at the reception.
Following the reception members of the delegation including Premier McLaughlin, Minister Hew, Mr. Bulgin, Mr. Miller, Cayman’s London Office head Eric Bush and Charles Parchment attended a dinner with the Friends of the British Overseas Territories (FOTBOT), hosted by Andrew Rosindell MP, Chair of the APPG for the Oversees Territories.