Outgoing Governor says I batted for Bermuda
The outgoing Governor said yesterday he spent as much time “batting for Bermuda” in Britain and Europe as he did representing the UK government’s views on the island.
John Rankin added that his work included helping to remove Bermuda from the European Union’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions last year.
He was speaking before he leaves the island tomorrow for a trip home to the UK before he takes up a new post as Governor of the British Virgin Islands in January.
Rena Lalgie, his successor in Bermuda, is expected to arrive on Sunday.
Mr Rankin said: “It’s often said that a Governor wears two hats … on the one hand my job is to represent UK Government positions to Bermuda but it’s also to represent and advocate for Bermuda’s interests back with the UK government.
“I think that point isn’t always well appreciated here but I have – on issues like the Bermuda passports code or in relation to the issue over the blacklisting by the EU on the economic substance test – my job is to work at one with the Bermuda Government in making clear to the UK and to Brussels what I think the position should be and the need to resolve these issues in a constructive way for the island.
“I certainly spent as much time batting for Bermuda as I do sometimes expressing a particular view from the UK government, which might on occasion be at odds with local views.”
Bermuda was added to the blacklist of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax matters at a meeting of EU finance ministers on March 12, 2019.
The EU move came after what David Burt, the Premier, said was a “drafting error” in the economic substance regulations submitted to the EU.
The island was removed from the list at the next Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting in Brussels about two months later.
Mr Rankin highlighted Bermuda’s commitment to creating a reputable environment for businesses to operate.
He said: “Under the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force assessment we came out as one of the top jurisdictions in the world in terms of our anti-money laundering arrangements here.
“We also score very well in our tax transparency arrangements.
“When criticisms are made from outside, including from organisations in the UK, on occasion they may be justified criticism, but for the most part we are a best practice jurisdiction in these areas.
“My job is to make sure that London knows that, colleagues in HM Treasury know that, that Government ministers in the UK are fully aware of that and that Brussels is aware of that as well.
“In relation to the economic substance test where, because of a mistake that was made here, we found ourselves on the EU blacklist, I worked very hard not just with London but with the UK representatives to the EU in Brussels to make sure that we got that turned around very quickly.”
The Governor added that his role more recently included efforts to change the island’s Covid-19 risk assessment level in the US.
He said: “In relation to the US Centres for Disease Control, where they had Bermuda on the wrong category, Consul General Lee Rizzuto made representations on that, but we also made representations via the British Embassy in Washington.”
Mr Rankin added: “Where there are problems, where we don’t believe that there’s best practice here, it’s part of my job sometimes to point that out but where there is best practice, it’s my job to support Bermuda.”
He said that the appointment of Ms Lalgie – Bermuda’s first woman and first black governor – reflected “the face of modern Britain”.
Mr Rankin added: “The job was put out to competitive interview and I’m delighted that she was successful in the job.
“Of course, the fact that she happens to be the first female governor and the first black governor has been a matter of public comment, but I’m very sure that she will wish to be judged – as she was selected – on her own merit.”
He added: “There was some excitement here but, of course, she also represents the face of modern Britain.
“The UK is a multiracial society, a society in which women are increasingly able to reach top levels of the Civil Service elsewhere and in that respect, I think from the UK perspective, there was less surprise at this appointment because we are seeing more women and more people from ethnic minorities being appointed to high positions and Rena is just another example of that.“
Mr Rankin was tight-lipped on “most of the advice” that he gave to Ms Lalgie before her move to Government House.
But he added: “I have certainly told her that this is a very welcoming island, that she will find friends here and she will find people who will want to be supportive of the Governor, who will be welcoming of her family and that, while there are challenges ahead, there are also lots of underlying strengths in Bermuda which should help us through those challenges.”