Prime Minister Theresa May’s vision of a ‘Global Britain’ is bold and ambitious.
I strongly believe that Britain’s Overseas Territories – a collection of 13 democratic, self-governing jurisdictions – have their part to play in making this vision a reality.
The relationship between the Overseas Territories and the UK over the years has proved very successful. Speaking on behalf of BVI, I can say that our partnership with Britain has brought many benefits to both parties and we are committed to ensuring this continues to be the case.
Earlier in February, the Overseas Territories Leaders met with the Prime Minister and had fruitful discussions with UK ministers on exiting the European Union. I am pleased to say the Government is receptive to our priorities for Brexit. However, it is vital that there is further dialogue about the impact of Brexit on the Overseas Territories in the UK as we approach the triggering of Article 50 and the negotiations for Britain to leave the EU begin in earnest.
BVI’s relationship with the UK has meant that we have also enjoyed a positive relationship with the EU built on the foundations of co-operation and regular dialogue. We have benefitted from a number of agreements with the EU, particularly in the area of financial services and do not want to see these connections fade away. Before we turn our full attention to a post-Brexit world, the Overseas Territories must strive to secure a positive and productive relationship with the EU.
BVI’s goal is to maintain as many of the existing arrangements with the EU as possible. A top priority for the Overseas Territories is maintaining market access to the EU. It is vital for us to be included in any tariff-free trade deal that the UK forges with the EU as international trade is essential to our economic future. Economic barriers pose a huge risk to BVI; the Territory’s financial sustainability would be put under immense pressure if BVI businesses are unable to trade goods and services freely with the EU.
Coupled with free trade is free movement of people. Maintaining free movement for citizens of the Overseas Territories is one of our key priorities and is crucial for conducting business and enabling our students to access higher education on the European continent.
We also hope to continue our participation in EU-led development programmes that have proved instrumental in boosting our tourism industry, improving education opportunities and making us more resilient against natural disasters.
The Overseas Territories are impressing upon the UK Government that we hope it continues to be on our side with EU matters, even as it loses its seat at the table in Brussels. At the moment, I believe BVI and other Overseas Territories are faced with increased threats from protectionist measures stemming from the EU such as its so-called list of “non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.” This is a salutary reminder that we must be able to rely on the UK to fight our corner against EU policy that may damage our interests.
Whilst it is important for BVI to continue to nurture our existing relationship with the EU when it comes to Brexit, we are not just interested in preserving the status quo. We see Brexit as a great opportunity – not just for BVI but for the UK as well.
As the UK sets out to strike new trade deals with some of the world’s biggest economies including China, the United States, and India, as well as the Commonwealth, it brings the prospect of a new economic partnership for the Overseas Territories with the UK. We in the BVI are particularly excited at capitalising on these new economic opportunities via participation in new trade and investment agreements.
But it is not simply about what we stand to gain from a more outward looking UK. I believe the Overseas Territories can be instrumental in helping the UK achieve its vision of becoming a ‘Global Britain’.
BVI, for example, can play a role in facilitating UK investment into emerging markets, helping it forge new trading relationships which can stimulate economic development and boost economic growth. Similarly, BVI can facilitate international investment into the British economy to support critical sectors such as housing and infrastructure where inward investment is urgently needed. Deploying BVI’s expertise to support Britain would be enormously beneficial.
There is no doubt that Brexit has its challenges for the UK and its Overseas Territories. The next two years of negotiations, from which we must emerge with the very best deal possible with the EU to maintain our vital business interests, will be far from straightforward.
But I believe the shared history, language and culture of the Overseas Territories puts us in a strong position to aid the UK in realising the many opportunities it has post-Brexit. We look forward to a close, positive relationship with the UK government and working to achieve our shared goals in the world after Brexit.