Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin met separately on Wednesday with Ben Wallace, Minister of State for the Home Office and Ben Merrick, Director of the Overseas Territories Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Accompanying Premier McLaughlin was Chief Officer Eric Bush of the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, and Roy Tatum, Head of the Office of the Premier.
The meetings focused on the on-going talks on constitutional reform for the Cayman Islands as well as other issues. With the Brexit date pushed back to October, the United Kingdom and the Cayman Islands governments are both keen to conclude the constitutional reform discussions, and to have the proposed changes debated in the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly later this year. The UK Government’s upcoming response to the recently published Foreign Affairs Committee report on the relationship with the Overseas Territories was also discussed; as were matters to do with the European Union blacklisting process and public registers of beneficial ownership.
The day of meetings also included talks with Sir Jeffery Jowell, QC, who is advising the Cayman Islands Government on a range of issues, including constitutional reform and the appeal of the Chief Justice’s judgment that legalised same-sex marriages in the Cayman Islands.
Later Wednesday, as part of the Cayman Government’s on-going UK political engagement programme, the Premier sponsored a Cayman Islands All Party Parliamentary Group (CI-APPG) dinner, with cross party attendance, at the House of Lords. The host of the dinner was Lord Northbrook, a member of the CI-APPG, and a long-time supporter of the Cayman Islands.
The Premier updated attendees on Cayman’s economy and how well the country is doing. But he also spoke frankly on matters of concern regarding what many in the Overseas Territories view as a worrying trend by some UK parliamentarians to intervene in the affairs of the territories in matters that are the devolved responsibility of the elected governments of the territories.
Mr. McLaughlin referred to the purported imposition of public registers of beneficial ownership by the UK Parliament as well as the approach taken by the Foreign Affairs Committee in its recent report on the Territories, which he described as “alarming”. He said that this type of unwarranted intervention, should it continue, will only serve to drive a wedge between the people of the territories and the United Kingdom and in the end will serve neither the interests of the UK nor the territories well.
Lord Northbrook said he was pleased to host the dinner on behalf of the Premier.
“I would like to give my particular praise to the Premier for his work since he became the Premier and the great strides in helping the UK to understand more about the Cayman Islands and what they do,” he said.
“The event was a great success. I was able to engage with a number of important figures in Parliament and The House of Lords to further our education campaign about the Cayman Islands within Westminster,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Continued high level engagement with MPs and Peers is essential for the Cayman Islands to maintain a presence and understanding within the Houses of Commons and Lords. My message also included a note of warning of the consequences of a UK Parliament; 4,500 miles from the Cayman Islands interfering in local matters that are not only devolved, but in circumstances where they have no real understanding of local people and local affairs.”
The Premier, along with Messrs. Eric Bush and Roy Tatum travelled on Thursday to Monaco for meetings and engagements with key yacht brokers and industry leaders. The Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands is hosting those meetings to advance the work of the new Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs.
On Sunday the Premier will participate in an annual charity bicycle ride of more than 87 miles to benefit the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. The Cayman Islands Government has partly sponsored the riding kit for the event and riding jerseys prominently display the Cayman Islands Coat of Arms.