The UK is a family.
It includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, like the British Virgin Islands (BVI), are part of the wider family too.
Like with all families, there is a shared history and a strong partnership – and I’m pleased to say that, following constructive discussions in recent weeks about Brexit negotiations, the BVI-UK partnership is as strong as ever.
While much has been written about the BVI over the last six months, not all fully understand the relationship we have with the UK. To clarify matters, the BVI is an internally self-governing British Overseas Territory.
Practically speaking this means the BVI has its own democratically elected government – of which I am the leader – that sets policy for all domestic matters, while the UK has responsibility for external affairs, except where this has been entrusted to the territory government, and security. The Queen is our head of state with an appointed governor based on island who is her representative.
It’s a relationship that has worked well for many years, bringing benefits to both parties.
That’s why I have been very encouraged by our conversations in recent weeks with UK government ministers, as our views on any impact of Brexit are being taken into consideration.
You may reasonably ask why I have been calling for our involvement in the Brexit process.
First, the decision to leave the EU is not only relevant to the UK, but also to the BVI, as we are legally associated with the EU on the basis of Britain’s current EU membership.
So in essence, the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU, whether that be the so-called “hard Brexit” through to a “soft Brexit”, will have ramifications for us and our people. This means Brexit is now a journey we must embark on together, as together we can make a success of it.
Second, it’s because I see this as an opportunity. While the UK’s decision to leave the EU does pose challenges for the BVI in terms of the implications for our own relationships with the EU, we see huge opportunities ahead.
This is particularly true as the UK seeks out new free trade deals with China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and across Africa and throughout the Commonwealth.
A new economic partnership with the UK will allow us to capitalise on the new economic opportunities through participation in new trade and investment agreements.
But more than just benefiting the BVI, through even closer partnership and collaboration, we can help the UK too. For example, we can help facilitate UK trade by channelling UK capital into emerging markets which can stimulate economic development and boost economic growth.
At the same time, the BVI can channel international capital into the British economy to support critical sectors such as housing and infrastructure where inward investment is urgently needed. Such an economic partnership would be a win-win for all.
We also have experience of engaging in international negotiations on our own behalf, so there is valuable expertise in the BVI.
These are just a few examples, but the principle stands – the BVI presents the UK with far more opportunities culturally, commercially and environmentally than is currently realised.
That’s why I am delighted with the way the UK government has welcomed us and the other Overseas Territories into the Brexit negotiations tent. Our objectives, namely to make Brexit as big a success as possible, are fully aligned.
We have a good framework for moving forward and further assurances of our continued involvement in the process, including reconvening here in London in the spring ahead of the triggering of Article 50.
Fundamentally, we are a committed, long standing partner of the UK.
Following positive dialogue, I feel extremely confident that, through collaboration, partnership and engagement, the UK family is on a path to a more secure, successful and sustainable future.