By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
Local government has mentioned nothing to the United Kingdom about potentially taking legal action to challenge the British nation’s public registers policy, which is being forced on the territory.
UK minister responsible for Overseas Territories Lord Tariq Ahmad gave that indication when he met with members of local media Tuesday evening, July 31.
When journalists asked the UK minister how Britain plans to respond to the threat of legal action from the BVI, he replied: “That’s not a matter that we’ve had raised with us directly in or exchanges with the BVI government.”
This discovery comes two months after government said it has retained Queen’s Counsel Gerard Farara and an international law firm to potentially challenge the public registers policy, which is an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Lord Ahmad, however, confirmed Premier Dr D Orlando Smith’s statements that the UK is willing to address all concerns relating to constitutional agreements with the BVI.
He said: “If the Overseas Territories themselves feel that there are constitutional changes they wish to see, [we invite them to] write to us. We are open to their suggestions to have discussions in that regard.”
UK Prime Minister assigns legislator to assess concerns
He further said British Prime Minister Theresa May has assigned one of her senior Cabinet ministers to assess any proposals that they may receive from the BVI on issues of constitution.
Though he gave no definitive indication the UK will withdraw its public registers policy, he said Britain is still willing to have ‘open discussions’ about concerns on how public registers of company beneficial ownership might hurt the BVI.
“We will work very much hand-in-glove with the different Overseas Territories … to ensure that we look at the detail on what can be done to mitigate the concerns,” he said.
The UK minister made it clear the British government did not want to impose public registers on the BVI. He said his government was merely honouring the will of UK parliament.
The BVI has until December 31, 2020, to comply to the UK’s public register policy. If the BVI does not comply, Lord Ahmad confirmed the UK will invoke an Order in Council.
Effectively, an Order in Council is a forceful command made in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. Failure to comply with that command can result in the UK exerting diplomatic pressure on the BVI.
Related article: ‘BVI will never be alone, UK is with you’ — Lord Ahmad
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