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Regional solidarity is our greatest defence against European bullies

Call for solidarity: Andrew Fahie, the Premier of the British Virgin Islands

“I know we Bermudians like to think that we are a cut above all other offshore financial centres. I was personally a fierce proponent of that viewpoint, both at home and abroad. But I have had a ‘road to Damascus’ moment on this issue because, try as we might to differentiate ourselves, to adversaries such as [Pierre] Moscovici and his EU staff, all the dots are the same — illegitimate! We must therefore work with other offshore financial centres if we are going to survive this existential onslaught.”

— former finance minister of Bermuda Bob Richards (The Royal Gazette, March 18, 2019)

Let me first say that, while we are on differing pages politically, the op-ed by Bob Richards was, as the British say, “spot-on”. He clearly articulated what — or should I say who? — is at the root of the recent European Union blacklisting.

For the past 20 years or more, successive Bermuda governments and related organisations such as Association of Bermuda International Companies, the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, the Bermuda Monetary Authority have jumped through every hoop presented by external forces. In some cases, such as with Solvency II, they went above and beyond any other jurisdiction.

Yet, somehow we still find ourselves in the crosshairs?

Mr Richards, in the same op-ed, also states the following:

“I would not jump to early conclusions pertaining to the narrative that Bermuda was blacklisted because our government was ‘playing games’. Knowing the attitude of the officials in Brussels relative to Bermuda, this may be an excuse for doing something they were determined to do anyway.”

Nevertheless, Mr Richards has, as he stated, come to a “Damascus” moment in the realisation that we have to unite with others who find themselves in the exact same predicament with regard to the EU blacklist.

It is interesting that when the point was made weeks, months and years ago that the Overseas Territories must unite to fight for economic survival, we heard the kneejerk reaction that we should have nothing to with the Caribbean.

Now that we clearly see that Britain and the EU have no problem throwing us under the bus for their own purposes, those in the know are now openly saying that we actually do need to unite and work closely with our Caribbean cousins who are facing the exact same threats.

Fortunately, for us all, regional leaders have indeed been working together for some time with regard to our financial services sectors.

In July 2018 during the Caricom Conference in Jamaica, the Overseas Territories of Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands spoke at length with fellow Caribbean leaders in an effort to seek and ultimately gain assistance in the matter surrounding the British Government’s move against the OTs regarding public registers of beneficial ownership.

Similarly, at the recent Caricom conference held in St Kitts, every head of state in the Caribbean, including the Deputy Premier, Walter Roban, clearly articulated the need for regional solidarity and action to protect our individual and collective financial service industries.

Recently, Andrew Fahie — pronounced “Foy”, not “Fahy”, just putting that out there — stated the following in Virgin Islands News Online.

“Our struggles in this Caribbean basin have always been one and the same, and it manifests itself in the modern day through our shared interest in having to defend and protect our different financial services sectors from unfair and onerous demands from a few in the United Kingdom Parliament, in particular in our case, and the European Union in all of our cases.”

He says that the Virgin Islands will continue to seek solidarity in standing up to a new aggressive push from outsiders, “which seems determined to issue edicts to its overseas territories in the region, without paying attention to the expressed will of the people, and ignoring our own values and customs, which are deeply fashioned by history, geography and our faith.”

With all of that being said, as individual islands and as a region, we must not only work together reactively when it comes to matters of urgency such as hurricanes and/or blacklists, but more importantly, we have a lot to learn proactively from each other.

This will include not only the respective governments, but the people themselves.

As with all relationships, it all starts with open and honest communication between individuals. To this end, on March 31, we will be having yet another “Cross-Caribbean Conversation” with folks from around the region.

Joining host Kim Swan and myself on Orders of the Day on HOTT 107.5FM between 8pm and 10pm will be Cayman Islands’ own Woody DaCosta and Sutcliffe Hodge, of Anguilla. We will be discussing the recent British Government Foreign Affairs Committee report.

Suffice it to say, there is not one OT that is in agreement with the recommendation to allow British citizens who are resident in the OTs the ability to vote or to run for office.

Incidentally, Mr Richards has a similar view:

“The British Foreign Affairs Committee is a child of that parliament. I have appeared before it once in the past myself. The recommendation of that committee to give British citizens automatic voting rights in Bermuda is a non-starter. It also breaches our constitution.”

Spot-on, mate, spot-on.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm