Lawyer: ties with UK will be strained if Labour is in power
Bermuda should hope for a Labour landslide if the party prevails when Britain next goes to the polls, a leading London lawyer told attendees at the Step Bermuda Conference yesterday.
James Quarmby, a partner and head of the private wealth team at London law firm Stephenson Harwood, was speaking on the topic “Life under Labour”.
He predicted that the election will take place next October.
The Labour Party enjoys a 20-point lead in the polls at present.
Mr Quarmby warned: “Labour’s not likely to be a friend to the Overseas Territories.
“You’ve got to look at who’s lobbying Labour. Who’s actually talking to Labour.
”They’re not talking to what I call sensible people like me — sensible in terms of ‘offshore’.
“They’re talking to people like Transparency International. You’ve got to understand their mindset — they’ve been in opposition for so long they’ve forgotten what it’s like to govern. They don’t know how to do it.”
Mr Quarmby said he asked the party what its policy was regarding Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and was told it does not have one.
“They don’t have a policy, which is actually quite good, but we do need to watch out for their leftwingers.”
Mr Quarmby referenced Transparency International’s push for public beneficial ownership registers.
“Transparency International and their fellow travellers — they understand that as soon as you have public registers of ultimate beneficial ownership for your entities, be they trusts or companies, it destroys your business model. And that’s the problem. They know that, and Labour are listening to them.”
Of the Labour Party, Mr Quarmby said: “What are they going to do with you guys? You should be hoping that if Labour win, they win big.
“The threat for you is a small Labour majority. A small Labour majority means that the Whips are very sensitive to what those loonies in the left of Labour want to do.
“And there are quite a few people that hate you because all they read is stuff from Transparency International and Tax Justice Network.”
Mr Quarmby said: “The relationship with the UK is going to come under strain in Labour — I think only because of beneficial ownership registers, frankly.
“The beneficial ownership thing is not going to go away – and I think having a Labour government is not going to be very comfortable for you guys in deciding what you want to do.
“And as an Overseas Territory you have much less position to push back on that because you know that they can go over your head. I think, really, that’s where all the action is going to be.”
However, he added: “They’ve got so much to do. They have not been in power for 13 years. You are not a priority for them. The only thing I see where you are going to have grief is the beneficial ownership registers.”
The annual Step Bermuda Conference concludes today.