The partnership that the Cayman Islands embraced with other Overseas Territories and the UK in responding to COVID-19 has been held up as an example of how our jurisdictions can prosper collectively even after Britain leaves the European Union and focuses on ‘Global Britain’.
Cayman Islands Representative to the UK and Europe Andre Ebanks gave that perspective during a recent international panel discussion on the challenges awaiting UK OTs, post Brexit. The panel convened at the Virtual Island Summit, an online conference held 7 to 13 September. The Summit’s aim was to connect participants from 100-plus islands across the globe to share common experiences, challenges, insights and approaches.
Mr Ebanks’ panel, on Saturday 12 September, tackled the topic, “Brexit and Beyond: Global and Local Challenges in the UK Overseas Territories”.
In his remarks, Mr Ebanks said that the COVID response, “encapsulates the essence of the opportunity that lies ahead.” He explained: “From where I sit in London, I witnessed an extraordinary partnership between Cayman, our sister OTs and the UK, in response to COVID.” He pointed out that this went deeper than the headlines of the PPE that was delivered, the test kits, and the evacuation flights, to the strong “human element” that the response demonstrated.
“During the lockdown, particularly from late March to June, what was on full public view for Caymanians and Cayman residents to see was a highly coordinated, caring, careful, hands on deck, melt-all-barriers approach between the UK and Cayman to get things done and preserve life. Due to that fact, certain bonds of trust and fellowship have been established that won’t soon be forgotten.”
As evidence that these bonds are being built upon, Mr Ebanks referred to comments by HE the Governor Martyn Roper on the opportunity that this year’s UK-hosted UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, provided for closer cooperation and agreement between Cayman and the UK on environmental priorities and action.
“No matter what form Brexit takes,” Mr Ebanks stated, “if the UK, Cayman and the OTs get together and strive towards collective prosperity, I believe we have strong prospects. The overarching opportunity that Brexit and environmental action present is to harness the bonds that have been forged during this pandemic to build a meaningful way forward as to exactly what ‘Global Britain’ means and what it means we are as a family.”
He added, “A few early seeds have been planted in Cayman.” For example, the financial services industries in the UK and Cayman could work closely to explore ways to meet the challenge of funding environmental work. As its contribution to green and blue financing, Cayman could also look to develop a niche as a domicile of choice for environmental and social governance investment funding vehicles since this jurisdiction has mastered putting together well-regulated funding vehicles and getting them to market efficiently. The OTs should also be considering whether or not the Paris Climate Agreement should be extended to them, he said.
The CI Representative shared with the panel that, on the domestic front, Cayman had taken the COVID lockdown period to do some long-range thinking and had formed the Strategic Economic Advisory Council. The Council was exploring various initiatives, including advancing renewable energy, diversifying our data services, and fostering digital payments.
Other speakers on the panel were British Virgin Islands Government Special Envoy Benito Wheatley, Falkland Islands Government MLA Hon Teslyn Barkman, and Dr Kate Matheson of the Department of Health and Social Sciences, University of the West of England (UWE). Moderator was Dr Peter Clegg, Head of the Health and Social Sciences Department, UWE. Panellists shared their respective territory’s views on the Overseas Territories’ relationship with the UK and the EU in current conversations.
A question and answer session followed, sparking discussion around future relationships among the jurisdictions, OT involvement in COP 26 in Scotland, and shared attempts to mitigate threats.
Reflecting on his involvement in the forum, Mr Ebanks said, “It was a privilege to speak at this international summit. It was important to highlight the versatility of Cayman, and the role it can play within the Global Britain family, post Brexit, in a number of potential areas of collaboration.”
This Virtual Island Summit was the second to be held. The summits are arranged by Island Innovation, a social enterprise for sustainable development and communications. The organisation brings together the private sector, government, utilities, NGOs and universities to advance innovation for sustainability and prosperity in islands worldwide.