By Davion Smith, BVI News Staff
The United Kingdom has opened up an inquiry concerning the future of its constitutional relationship with the British Virgin Islands and other Overseas Territories (OTs).
The UK launched the inquiry claiming they are struggling to find a balance between ‘respecting OT self-governance’ and ‘ensuring the security and stability of OTs’.
“As our place in the world changes, we need to think about the effect on them (Overseas Territories) and whether the structure of our relationships still works,” explained Tom Tugendhat, who is Chairman of the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee — the group leading the inquiry.
The committee said the inquiry will consider how effectively the UK manages its responsibilities towards OTs, and “how it envisages their future”.
As part of the inquiry, the committee is inviting written submissions about the governance of OTs, financing of OTs, and how the relationship between the UK and its OTs benefit each party.
Stakeholders are also being asked to submit their thoughts about the representation of the OTs in the UK, the Commonwealth, and other international fora. They are further invited to submit thoughts about ‘assets and liabilities’ such as natural resources in OTs, and the effects of extreme weather events on them.
Stakeholders have until September 3 to make their submissions.
In response to news of the UK’s inquiry, Leader of Opposition Andrew Fahie said he intends to form a committee and hold community meetings to gather the views of BVI residents in relation to what the territory’s relationship with Britain should look like, going forward.
Inquiry the result of bad blood between UK and OTs
The UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee suggested it was prompted to launch the inquiry because of the growing ‘strain’ in the relationship between the UK and Overseas Territories such as the BVI.
This strain became more evident since the UK passed the controversial amendment to its Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act. The amendment is forcing the BVI to implement what are known as public registers of company beneficial ownership.
These registers are feared to cause massive blows to the BVI’s main revenue-earner — the financial services.
The UK’s lower parliament known as the House of Commons — which is responsible for the Foreign Affairs Committee — is the body that pushed to implement public registers in the BVI.
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