Residents of the British Virgin Islands could be called upon in a few short weeks to decide whether the territory should accept the United Kingdom’s £300 million loan guarantee offer for hurricane recovery.
Premier Andrew Fahie said a local referendum could be had based on how well discussions go between Britain and the delegation of government officials who are hoping to visit the UK by mid-September.
The UK and the BVI have been somewhat at loggerheads in relation to the conditions of the loan guarantee offer.
“When I come back from the UK, we will see if we will be able to make common ground. And if not, if these conditions are still there and they want to impose these things on us, let’s have a referendum,” Premier Fahie said during Monday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.
He continued: “Let us bring in some persons outside the elections office [for the referendum] and if the people say, ‘Fahie, no matter [how many] generations we get held up, we want the loan guarantee now, and we agree with all those conditions‘, fine. And if they say ‘we don’t want these conditions‘, good.”
September date for possible referendum?
Fahie further said recent correspondence from the UK has indicated that the BVI has until the end of the month to decide on the matter.
Before the proposed referendum, Fahie said the governor — who represents the UK — will inform residents of the reasons to vote for and against the loan guarantee.
Premier Fahie’s statements come following a number of recent correspondence between his office and the sovereign nation.
UK not budging
He said based on those letters, the UK is not budging in their stance on the conditions for the guarantee being offered.
“We listed some of our concerns with the loan guarantee and this is cited in my 29 July 2019 letter to the UK: ‘The terms and conditions in there, most of them are remarkable if you want good governance and accountability’. But, there are some terms in there that we would have to be careful of, that we have to renegotiate,” Fahie said.
Accept it or don’t accept it, BVI told
He said an August 21 letter he received from the Economic Secretary to the UK Treasury had no regard for the concerns of the BVI.
While interpreting the contents of the letter, Fahie said the BVI was effectively told to “accept it or don’t accept it. And if you don’t accept it, we will tell the [British] Prime Minister, [Boris Johnson].”
The UK is also insisting on the presence of the Governor Augustus Jaspert being part of the BVI delegation heading to the UK to negotiate, Fahie said.
“You understand what is going on in this 21st Century? I got a chaperone,” Premier Fahie commented.
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