By Dickson Igwe, Contributor
Post-Brexit Britain, and the events before and after, mean that a referendum must now be held in the Caribbean Overseas territories, on deciding whether or not these islands move towards greater autonomy, either within the UK, or the European Union.
Brexit has unleashed great anger among the Remain- Remoaner- Constituency in the UK, as expected: more so, at the periphery of the UK. Talk of unity is a ‘con’.
Britain remains divided down the middle on Brexit. That will not change. Brexit has not simply exposed the divisions inherent in UK society, but like a blanket pulled away, Brexit has exposed the racism and prejudices that have always been part of Britain.
That the UK will return to the EU is inevitable in this Old Boy’s opinion. As the over 60s pass on, the under 50s are much more European than their parents.
Then, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to join the EU, after referendums of their own, preparations for these votes will start to happen, maybe in a matter of months. And even Wales has started to ‘kick up’ against Brexit and sees the Welsh future as part of the European Union.
The new UK reality
There is a new UK reality, post the UK exiting the EU. Brexit, as this Old Boy has warned, is far from over. In fact, Brexit is now entering the turmoil and convulsion phase.
The post-Brexit seas will be as stormy and volatile as ever. The UK will consist of little more than England and the Oversea Territories in the coming years. And that is if the OTs are willing to remain with the England component of the Old UK.
And the idea that Donald Trump and a trans-Atlantic Alliance with the USA will save the day has become laughable. Trump is as unpredictable as ever. China and India are the new game in town, for now. And most intelligent observers know China is a risky bet: an absolute dictatorship with a culture completely alien to western mores.
Another matter: the European Union is prepared to be as uncooperative as Brexiters have been, in upcoming Brexit negotiations. OK. Caribbean Overseas Territory referendums should be held after extensive discussion and debate on whether or not these islands should become individually independent, or unite, to become autonomous territories of the UK, or European Union.
Autonomy means complete independence from the UK in domestic matters, after a thorough constitutional review, and new constitutional process that stresses Separation of Powers.
OTs should adopt a Governor General
That process must further be loaded with checks and balances. Autonomous OTs should adopt a Governor General of the Caribbean OTs and Privy Councillor, nominated by Premiers in Council, and legislators in committee.
The OTs Governor-General, a person of huge savvy, pedigree, and intellect, will act as constitutional guardian, Head of National Security, and OTs ambassador to the world at large.
The Governor will be Head of the various Public Services in the OTs, assisted by Governors of each OT: much the same as it is today. Governors too will be appointed by Premiers in Council and committees made up of all three branches of government: Legislative, executive and judicial.
OT Chief Justice
A Chief Justice of the OTs who sits on the Privy Council is also an option. Now, one of the ‘peeves’ of the Caribbean Oversea territories on Brexit is the fact that these dependent territories of the UK were not consulted on the Brexit process at any stage.
Then OT Citizens were to find out at the very last minute that they were – in the long run- to be stripped of any benefits and status they possessed from the EU as territories of a UK, exiting the Union. Then, in a recent article, a Virgin Islands Official with responsibility to the Premier for international affairs stated that Post Brexit, the OTs would have to reassess their relationship with the UK.
OTs an afterthought
This was a very valid assertion. It is clear from the whole ‘Brexit saga’ that the Caribbean OTs were merely an afterthought in the process: backwaters, forgotten outposts.
In any event, Foreign Office types, and most UK expats will happily tell natives that the UK would be gladly rid of the Overseas territories – or as one expat friend told this old boy- the UK is ambivalent towards a British Virgin Islands that is hanging on to the “apron strings of the motherland: sucking off mummy’s teats”.
There is a huge caveat for the Virgin Islands Independence debate: and that is that in a world that is integrating into super states and super regions, the OTs will not survive as single independent island nations, unless they form constitutional unions, and equally concrete relationships, with geographically, culturally and socially similar countries.
USVI relationship with BVI is vital
That is why regional organizations such as CARICOM and the OECS are crucial for Caribbean island jurisdictions. The United States Virgin Islands is a further relationship that is vital for these British Virgin Islands. It is critical that Post Brexit, that the Overseas Territories not be caught flat-footed.
One simply has to read the UK news to see what is happening in the UK, as the country changes beyond recognition. Today the UK has more in common with China, India, and the Mid-East, than the Caribbean, with an authoritarian government that practically owns parliament.
This will lead to unpredictability and overreach in future relations with Caribbean OTs. Consequently, the OTs must come together as a single bloc in a pre-union, with premiers, and Chief Ministers, and high officials, holding regular meetings.
Ultimately a Secretariat and a Council of OT Premiers, and even a regional OT assembly where OT legislators in the various OTs can sit together and discuss and vote on specific matters, is warranted.
If ever there was a time for OT leaders to unite, and discuss and debate, the constitutional, social, and economic status, and future, of the Caribbean OTs, the time is now. And not wait until one morning, where we all wake up to learn that the New UK wants to cut that proverbial apron string, and let us loose into a very dangerous world.
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