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Bermuda granted entrustment for Caricom negotiations

Bermuda will begin taking steps to gain full Caribbean Community membership “in earnest” after being granted official authorisation by Britain.

Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, David Burt, the Premier, said that the Governor had received a Letter of Entrustment from the UK’s Minister for Overseas Territories authorising the Government to begin negotiations with Caricom.

Mr Burt said: “The Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs [Walter Roban] has responsibility for Caricom affairs.

“As such, having executed this entrustment on behalf of the Government of Bermuda, he will begin the process of consultation in accordance with the Government’s Throne Speech promise.”

Plans to press ahead with full membership of Caricom were unveiled in the Throne Speech last November. Bermuda currently has associate membership.

The proposal was widely condemned on social media and prompted criticism from former premier Sir John Swan and former Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean.

Mr Burt dismissed those criticisms yesterday as “completely unsupported by facts“.

He said: “The average Bermudian might be asking themselves ‘what's in this for me?’

“Our government understands the potential benefits of a closer relationship with our sister Islands and countries. These benefits go beyond the cultural and historic; but also towards possible economic benefits to our country and opportunities for our Bermudian people.

“For too long we have been told to distance ourselves from the Caribbean, often by those who had no issue with benefiting financially from relationships established in the region while denying our Government and our people the same opportunity.

“We see a strengthened relationship with Caricom, potentially creating many new and exciting opportunities. There are opportunities to drive down prices through increased competition and partnerships, broader access to professional and technical training, and new markets for Bermudians seeking to sell their goods or services overseas.

“New opportunities for foreign direct investment and new opportunities to learn from the wisdom, mistakes and experience of countries with many differences but also many similarities and many shared challenges. All these opportunities will be explored in the upcoming consultation.”

Mr Burt emphasised that full membership would not threaten Bermuda’s relationship with the US.

He said: “US pre-clearance has been of benefit to Bermudians for almost 50 years and a relationship with the United States, built up over decades, is one that we value and work tirelessly to strengthen.

”Our government would never put that relationship at risk, nor would we jeopardise the pre-customs clearance benefit enjoyed by Bermudians and our visitors for decades.”

Mr Burt also pointed out that, according to documents recently obtained by the Government, the One Bermuda Alliance had made similar moves towards full membership in 2016 when it held office.

He said: “This perhaps explains why the honourable leader of the Opposition did not address full membership in Caricom in his initial Reply to the Throne Speech. They knew of this entrustment while we on this side of the House, and indeed, the public did not.

“In any event, I am sure that this means that the exploration of full membership in Caricom will enjoy bipartisan support in this House, unless of course, this is another position on which the Opposition wishes to reverse itself.”

Mr Burt said he would attend a meeting of Caricom leaders in Guyana next week. He added: “I will inform the Caricom Secretariat that Bermuda has received a Letter of Entrustment from the United Kingdom, which will allow the Honourable Deputy Premier to commence discussions with Caricom to obtain details that will inform the consultation.

“This government believes that closer ties to Caricom will be good for Bermuda and good for Bermudians, and now, with the entrustment from the United Kingdom Government, we can commence the consultation process promised in last year’s Speech from the Throne in earnest.”

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Published February 24, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated February 24, 2024 at 7:59 am)

Bermuda granted entrustment for Caricom negotiations

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