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Dunkley anticipates Brexit business impact ‘minimal’

Bermuda has become the first British Overseas Territory to initiate direct talks with the UK over the impact of its withdrawal from the European Union.

Along with discussing the repercussions of the June “Brexit” referendum, Michael Dunkley’s two days of meetings in London encompassed the appointment of the next Governor, and the surprise decision by Massachusetts to stop accepting Bermudian driver’s licences.

With British authorities still grappling with the consequences of Brexit, the Premier said that it would “probably take until the end of the year for Article 50 to be invoked”.

This was in reference to the section of the Treaty on European Union that covers notifying the European Council. A two-year negotiation period will follow. “I wanted to make sure that Bermuda’s interests are at all times at the forefront, as well as to obtain a better understanding of the process,” said Mr Dunkley, stressing that it was still “too early to speculate what we might see”, but that he was “confident that we have direct access”.

The Premier anticipated “minimal” impact on the island’s business dealings in Europe. “We want to be sure that we are involved whenever the UK is at the table and our interests have to be protected.”

Less certain was the ease of movement and travel that Bermudians enjoy at present within the EU, but Mr Dunkley again said it was impossible to know at this point.

Some have questioned whether the Brexit move could come with unintended consequences for the right of abode within Britain that Bermudians enjoy as British citizens, but the Premier said he didn’t see that being an issue “at all”. “Brexit could impact their ability to live in Europe, but not in the UK.”

The London meetings included talks with Baroness Anelay, Minister of State for the Commonwealth, as well as British MP Robin Walker, a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union.

The Premier also spoke with a reporter at The Economist on business and political issues.

The appointment of a new Governor after George Fergusson stepped down this summer was discussed, and Mr Dunkley said there should be “an announcement coming quite shortly”.

Mr Dunkley, who said that the former government administration had first learnt of the issue in 2010, added that he was “optimistic” at finding a solution for restoring driving rights for Bermudians in Massachusetts — where many locals travel for educational and medical reasons.

“We don’t underestimate the business that goes back and forth as well. It’s a very important area for Bermuda, and we are trying to deal with it on two fronts.”

Getting Bermuda on to a driving treaty dating back to the 1940s would take time to investigate, with Government House likely to be involved. Another option was a memorandum of understanding directly with the Massachusetts Governor’s office.