UK relations ‘no longer fit for purpose’, says Cayman Islands government

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UK and Cayman Islands flags outside Government Administration Building, George Town

LONDON, England (CNS) — The Cayman Islands government has taken a very different position from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over the current balance in the relationship between the UK and its Overseas Territories.

In its submissions to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for the review currently underway, the Cayman Islands government described the constitutional relationship as insecure and outdated, and accused Britain of taking an ad hoc approach to engagement with Cayman.

The Cayman Islands government also criticized the UK government for continuing to treat Cayman as a subordinate rather than a partner, and described the current document that supports the relationship as “no longer fit for purpose”.

The Cayman Islands submissions state that the 2012 White Paper on the British Overseas Territories (BOTs), which still underpins the current relationships, has reached the “end of its operational lifespan”. This is in contrast to the claims made by the FCO in its submissions that the document was still central to how the UK relates to and deals with the territories.

From the Cayman Islands’ perspective, however, the relationship with the UK needs to change because officials there believe the British government has not been willing to devolve meaningful power to the territories.

“Over the past two decades, the UK has undertaken significant devolution of powers to sub-national, regional institutions but the status afforded to these new institutions has not been replicated in the UK Government’s treatment of the Cayman Islands, nor has the Overseas Territories Directorate (OTD) ever been staffed with adequate expertise required to represent this new era of decentralized policy making,” officials stated in the submissions.

Aware of the comments the FCO had made about retaining the 2012 White Paper as the guiding document for relations until at least after Brexit, the Cayman government said it was “regrettable” that this decision was made without consultation with the territories. The Cayman Islands government said it disagreed with that position because it feels that the ambitions of that document were never fulfilled in any case.

Cayman’s submission, which makes it clear that the Cayman Islands government and the FCO are still some way apart in their view of the relationship, also indicate that the Cayman Islands government believes the UK does not respect the autonomy of the territories.

“We are often left with the impression there is a view the British Overseas Territories are to be administered, rather than treated with respect as self-governing representative democracies in their own right,” the Cayman government wrote in the paper.

The Cayman Islands government raised a number of complaints about Britain’s failure to properly represent and protect Cayman on the international stage and criticises the OTD within the FCO for its failure to facilitate relationships across Whitehall. Cayman even suggests the lack of awareness among the different British ministries has led to its reputation being damaged.

“[T]his widespread lack of awareness across Whitehall of the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories has often led to policy positions and public statements by other UK government agencies that are misinformed and lacking of input from the Overseas Territories,” the Cayman Islands government said in the submission. “These actions often subject Overseas Territory governments to unwarranted criticism and reputational damage which, with proactive engagement and dialogue, could have been prevented.”

Among the many other concerns raised by the Cayman Islands is the diversity of the British Overseas Territories and what Cayman sees as the continued lumping together of the BOTs when their needs are very different; from the South Atlantic Islands to Gibraltar to the Caribbean islands, the issues impacting the 14 territories are unique and the Joint Ministerial Council has not served them well.

The Cayman Islands government submission suggests that leaders here are seeking a radical change in the relationship that looks more like an equal partnership than the current situation, which still resembles the past status of coloniser and colonised.

The Cayman Islands set out a list of detailed recommendations. As well as the idea of establishing a “respect agenda” to protect Cayman from what the government here sees as constitutional overreach by the UK, officials suggest a cross-government audit of international obligations of Whitehall departments.

They also want the UK to provide more international representation and a review of ministerial responsibility in relations to the BOTs, as well as moving the OTD to the Cabinet Office.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service

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