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Rishi Sunak becomes UK prime minister, leaves James Cleverly at Foreign Office

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British prime minister Rishi Sunak waves from the steps after delivering a speech at 10 Downing Street in London today. Mr Sunak arrived at Downing Street after returning from Buckingham Palace, where he was invited to form a government by the King. (Photograph by Alastair Grant/AP)

Bermuda appears largely unaffected by the extraordinary turmoil in British politics as Rishi Sunak, the third prime minister in seven weeks, left the same foreign secretary in place during a major cabinet reshuffle.

James Cleverly, the first non-White person to occupy the pivotal role, survived a major clear-out of the top Tory team.

David Burt, the Premier, congratulated Mr Sunak and said he would use a meeting between the British Government and Overseas Territories next month to engage with the new administration.

Mr Burt said: “I look forward to working with the new prime minister and his ministers in Bermuda's interests.

“Next month's joint ministerial council will be the first opportunity to engage with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office teams since the change in administration."

Mr Cleverly took over the post of foreign secretary from Liz Truss when she became Prime Minister on September 6.

On Ms Truss’s final day as foreign secretary, Rena Lalgie, the Governor, announced she had been “instructed” by London to refuse Royal Assent to the Government’s flagship Bill to legalise the use and production of cannabis — meaning it could not become law.

Britain's foreign secretary, James Cleverly, walks outside 10 Downing Street in London, today. Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak became Britain's first prime minister of colour after being chosen on Monday to lead a governing Conservative Party desperate for a safe pair of hands to guide the country through economic and political turbulence. (Photograph by Kin Cheung/AP)

Mr Cleverly had supported an attempt by Boris Johnson to try and retake 10 Downing Street at the weekend, only for the former prime minister to back out of the race for Tory party leader on Sunday.

Unlike Ms Truss, who packed her Cabinet full of loyalists, Mr Sunak has gone for a broader top team.

Bermuda being an Overseas Territory, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is responsible for it and is the point of contact for Ms Lalgie.

Within the Foreign Office, the junior minister responsible for Overseas Territories since September has been Jesse Norman, who backed Mr Sunak in the leadership race and worked under him when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

It is likely that there will be some movement of junior ministers tomorrow as Mr Sunak completes his reshuffle, and it is not clear if Mr Norman will remain in place.

One of his fellow junior ministers, Gillian Keegan, was promoted to education secretary today.

Such has been the state of flux in British politics, Mr Cleverly is the fifth foreign secretary in a little more than six years.

Jeremy Hunt, a former foreign secretary, kept his post as chancellor of the exchequer. The role is also highly important for Bermuda given the island’s status as a financial hub.

Bermuda’s status as a low-tax jurisdiction may come into the spotlight as Mr Hunt tries to increase Britain’s tax revenues, but the Conservatives have traditionally been friendlier to low-tax jurisdictions than the opposition Labour Party.

Ms Lalgie has twice called for talks between Hamilton and London to try and reach a compromise on the Cannabis Licensing Bill.

The legislation passed the House of Assembly, but 12 PLP MPs — 40 per cent of the caucus — did not take part in the vote, though some were abroad at the time.

The One Bermuda Alliance has claimed the PLP was using the cannabis liberalisation push as a trigger issue to try and build support for independence from Britain.

Curtis Dickinson, the former finance minister who failed in his bid to topple David Burt as PLP leader and Premier last week, said that the Government knew Britain would reject its controversial plans as they went against international treaty obligations.

He told The Royal Gazette: “I think that we may have overstepped the mark in that we knew from a policy perspective that what we were proposing was outside what was prepared to be accepted by the UK.

“I think we have to look at it again with a view to trying to stay in the UN convention and work with the UK Government on that issue.”

Mr Burt said last year that if Royal Assent was denied for the Cannabis Licensing Bill, it would “destroy” Bermuda’s relationship with Britain.

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Published October 26, 2022 at 8:05 am (Updated October 26, 2022 at 8:05 am)

Rishi Sunak becomes UK prime minister, leaves James Cleverly at Foreign Office

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