The National Democratic Party government has finally weighed in on a UK-sanctioned ‘inquiry’ that has triggered mixed feelings among persons with interests in the British Virgin Islands.
The inquiry concerns the touchy subject of the future of Britain’s constitutional relationship with the BVI and other Overseas Territories (OTs).
While making his first public address on the matter which the UK announced nearly a month ago, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith described the inquiry as an ‘important initiative’ by the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Premier suggested that he welcomed the inquiry, which he said gives the BVI an opportunity to address pressing issues.
“Among other things, we will seek to ensure that the [UK] Committee understands our position on the recent threat of an Order in Council and why this has the potential to have such an adverse impact on the partnership between us.”
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.
The UK is threatening to serve an Order in Council because the BVI continues to resist Britain’s ultimatum that the territory should implement public registers by December 2020.
Despite a continued ‘tense’ BVI-UK relationship – which the Premier said has ‘created a sense of unease’ – Dr Smith said government remains hopeful. He further noted the value of the BVI to the UK.
“BVI domiciled business and finance activity generates roughly £3 billion per year in tax revenue for the UK and supports 150,000 jobs in that country. We hope therefore that our partnership will only continue to positively develop to the benefit of all our communities,” said Dr Smith, who further noted the reciprocated support the UK has provided to the BVI, especially after the 2017 hurricanes.
The UK launched the inquiry claiming they are struggling to find a balance between ‘respecting the principle of self-governance’ and ‘ensuring the security and stability’ of British Overseas Territories. The UK suggested it was prompted to launch the inquiry because of the growing strain between it and OTs such as the BVI.
As part of the inquiry, any person or group in the BVI can submit their thoughts about the governance of OTs, financing of OTs, and how the relationship between the UK and its OTs benefit each party, among other things.
In this respect, Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie said he is advancing plans to 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. Those responses will be documented and submitted as part of the UK inquiry, Fahie said.
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