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Dunkley and OT leaders to discuss Brexit

Turks and Caicos visit: Michael Dunkley, the Premier, will meet other Premiers and Chief Ministers (File photograph)

The Bermuda Government has already spoken with British Government officials regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

But Michael Dunkley told the House of Assembly yesterday that the implications of Brexit remained unclear.

Having already written to Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May, to offer congratulations on her appointment, the Premier said he had outlined Bermuda’s significant economic contribution to Britain.

He added that he would be travelling to the Turks and Caicos Islands next week to join other Premiers and Chief Ministers at the Pre-Joint Ministerial Council, where Brexit will be discussed.

“Our discussions will focus on our relationship with the European Union, in view of Brexit,” Mr Dunkley said.

“It is a priority that we assess the future of overseas territories within the EU and our collective priorities within UK negotiations. Among the many topics to be discussed, we will focus on the global tax and transparency agenda attached to our financial services industry, child safeguarding and sustainable economic development.

“I will have an opportunity to lead the discussion on the latter topic. These discussions are prudent and timely, as we prepare to engage with new UK ministers across Whitehall.”

Joining Mr Dunkley will be Cabinet secretary Derrick Binns and the island’s UK representative, Kimberley Durrant, who acts as Bermuda’s Sherpa in the Joint Ministerial Council.

“The Prime Minister has indicated that she will respect the wishes of the UK voters and will proceed to withdraw the UK from the European Union,” the Premier said. “This will not be completed quickly and there remains much to be understood in this regard.

“In consideration of the potential impact of the UK decision on Bermuda, the Government has held discussions with officials within the UK Government and also among key officials within the Bermuda Government.

“I can inform this House that a great deal of uncertainty remains within the UK with regard to the implications of and process for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“Prime Minister Theresa May will have responsibility for activating Article 50 of the European Union Treaties, triggering the steps required for the UK to formally sever its membership in the EU. Until the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement, the UK remains a member of the European Council, and as such the relevant EU law continues to apply to and within the UK.

“The European Council met on June 28 and 29 and agreed under the legal basis of Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union that once notification has been received from the UK, the European Council will adopt guidelines for the negotiations of an agreement with the UK.

“The Council has already determined that ‘any agreement, which will be concluded with the UK as a third country, will have to be based on a balance of rights and obligations. Access to the Single Market requires acceptance of all four freedoms.’ If no agreement is reached within two years of the UK activating Article 50, the UK would leave the EU without any new agreement being in place.

“The Overseas Territories Department within the Foreign Office has actively engaged the Europe Directorate to immediately identify the issues as it relates to overseas territories.

“A new EU unit has been established within the UK Cabinet Office that will oversee the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU and the subsequent relationship of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the EU.

“Our team, alongside other overseas territories and the Foreign Office, has already identified priority complex issues to be forwarded to the EU unit within the UK Cabinet Office. The details of the UK’s plans to manage its consultation and negotiation process remain unclear at this stage. However, we are preparing alongside the Foreign Office to ensure that priorities relating to the overseas territories are streamed within the negotiation structure.

“We will, of course, be keenly interested in the impact on any existing treaties in which Bermuda has an interest, particularly those covered by the Overseas Association Decision, and also on the impact of the free access across Europe by most Bermudians under the Schengen Agreement.

“The legal position is clear: the UK remains a member of the EU and the full range of rights and obligations afforded under the treaties still apply.”