Today’s agenda was busy but productive, with a lot to get through on the Brexit agenda
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin
Published 5th December 2018, 11:29am
LONDON - The two-day Joint Ministerial Council Meeting (JMC) between British Overseas Territories and Her Majesty’s Government began Tuesday at Lancaster House with welcome remarks from the Cayman Islands Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin as President of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA).
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, UK Minister for the British Overseas Territories also welcomed participants. Joining Premier McLaughlin at JMC 2018 are Minister for Financial Services and Home Affairs Hon. Tara Rivers and Attorney General Hon. Samuel Bulgin, QC.
In his opening remarks the Premier thanked Lord Ahmad for his work on behalf of the Overseas Territories. He also expressed his thanks to UK Ministers attending the meetings despite important debates on Brexit taking place in the House of Commons.
“Today’s agenda was busy but productive, with a lot to get through on the Brexit agenda,” said Mr. McLaughlin at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. “We are grateful for the attendance of those from the UK Government who were able to give us updates as far as possible given the uncertainty of the day caused by the Brexit debates in the House of Commons. It was regrettable, though understandable, that the Right Hon. David Liddington, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was also not able to attend the JMC meetings today as expected. However, we look forward to his colleague Chloe Smith, Parliamentary Secretary (Minister for the Constitution), joining us on Wednesday to lead the session on the Constitutional Relationship with the UK.”
The day’s meetings focused on discussions about the European Union exit negotiations (or Brexit) and contingency planning, including updates on the domestic parliamentary process, trade policies and development funding.
Discussions also included specialist details of Overseas Territories-related environmental work through the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), an overview of planning for a ‘no deal’ scenario in Brexit, trade policies post Brexit and potential changes to funding through the Overseas Development Fund.
Overseas Territory leaders were again advised that EU funding that supports environmental and other projects in the Territories will be guaranteed by the UK until 2020. However, it was noted by some Overseas Territory leaders that whilst this was appreciated, it means there will be challenges for those projects that need longer term funding.
The Cayman Islands has benefited in the past from EU funding for projects including post Ivan housing, the Doppler Radar Project and the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme.
Assurances were also provided to Territories with trade arrangements with EU countries, and UK officials noted that interests of OTs are being considered alongside that of the UK with regards to trade. It was pointed out that in the proposed EU withdrawal agreement that every Overseas Territory is listed by name – an indication that the UK is determined to take all the UK family into consideration in any deal with the EU.
There was a lively session on British Overseas Territories citizens’ passports with the UK agreeing to look at concerns that impact some citizens; especially those travelling through the United States. The concern was that BOTC passports are now electronically coded with the same electronic code as British passports and this presented occasional problems for some Territories’ nationals when travelling on some airlines. The request was that BOTC passports be encoded with an appropriate code for each Territory to avoid this issue.
Another key session of the day focussed on Child Safeguarding. Territories’ leaders updated the JMC on the work that has been done. Mr. McLaughlin noted that much work was done over the past year in the Cayman Islands, with advancements of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), training and capacity building, raising community awareness on safeguarding of children and older persons, and restructuring the services of the Department of Children and Family Services.
During the day Ms Rivers spoke with Lord Bates, the Minister of State for International Development, and thanked him for the work done by the UK to press for funding to be made available to OTs damaged in hurricanes and other natural disasters. She said more should be done and was assured that the UK Government intends to work with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to help foster a greater understanding of the needs and vulnerabilities of small island countries.
The JMC meetings continue today with sessions on Disaster Management, Financial Services, Trade and Investment and the Constitutional Relationship with the UK.