A UK report released this month is pushing for the BVI to remove elements its ‘belongership’ status, impose same-sex marriages, and impose what are known as public registers of company beneficial ownership before 2023.
These changes have been recommended not only for the BVI but for all the UK Overseas Territories (OTs).
In relation to having elements of the ‘belongership’ status removed, the UK said they do not like what the status represents because it denies UK citizens who are permanent residents in the OTs the right to vote and to hold elected office in these territories.
“Belongership and its equivalents are wrong,” said the report’s authors — the UK’s House of Commons and its Foreign Affairs Committee.
The report argued that Belongership status “elevates one group of British people over another and risks undermining the ties that bind the UK and the OTs together”.
“The UK government should initiate a consultation with the elected governments of the OTs and work with them to agree on a plan to ensure that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office in the territory,” the report argued, adding that a timeline should be set for the phasing out of Belongership status which the report described as ‘discriminatory’.
It continued: “While we recognise that the OTs are small communities with unique cultural identities, we do not accept that there is any justification to deny legally-resident British Overseas Territory and UK citizens the right to vote and to hold elected office.”
Time for BVI to implement same-sex marriages
On the heels of Bishop John Cline voicing his fears that the UK might impose their same-sex marriage beliefs and policies on the BVI, the report has confirmed those concerns.
The report made it clear that “it is time for all OTs to legalise same-sex marriage”.
“The [UK] government should set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage. If that deadline is not met, the Government should intervene through legislation or an Order in Council,” the report said.
It further said that, as it relates to Overseas Territories, the UK government must to do more than support same-sex marriage ‘in principle’.
“It (the UK government) must be prepared to step in, as it did in 2001 when an Order in Council decriminalised homosexuality in OTs that had refused to do so.”
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.
2023 public registers deadline unacceptable
An even sooner Order in Council is being encouraged as it relates pressuring the BVI and other OTs to impose public registers of beneficial ownership.
UK minister responsible for OTs recently indicated that Britain’s government was minded to give OTs up till 2023 to impose the locally-dreaded registers. But the UK Foreign Affairs Committee — the authors of the UK report — said they are displeased with this extended 2023 deadline. The deadline was previously set for 2020.
The report said: “We profoundly regret, however, that public registers may not be published before 2023. It is simply not acceptable that this will be long after the deadline set out in the Act. The Foreign Secretary, in co-operation with the elected governments of the OTs, should lay out before the summer recess a clear and detailed timetable for the publication of registers of beneficial ownership in each OT.”