09 February 2017

Virgin Islands joins other dependent territories in London BREXIT Talks

BVI Premier Attending Brexit Meetings in UK

Press Release

Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE will lead a delegation to London to attend the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UK-OT) Joint Ministerial Council on European Union (EU) Negotiations and other meetings from February 6 - 10. 
At the meeting on EU Negotiations, the Premier will call on the UK Government to include the BVI in any new trade arrangements with the EU; ensure freedom of movement for OT citizens across Europe; and maintain financial support to the 11th European Development Fund through 2020 to support OTs on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable energy.
“It is critical that the BVI and other OTs are on the UK Brexit agenda to ensure our priorities are taken into account before Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is triggered to begin negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU”, the Premier said.
Premier Smith will also reiterate his call for a new post-Brexit economic partnership between the UK and OTs in which the BVI and other territories can be an asset in facilitating UK trade and investment with emerging markets across the Commonwealth in Africa and Asia whose legal systems are based on English Common law.
To advance this objective, the Premier will encourage the UK Government to continue supporting the BVI’s efforts to achieve recognition by the EU of the Territory’s legitimacy as an international finance centre and acknowledge the international standards on tax and transparency that it meets as a jurisdiction.
At the 2016 Joint Ministerial Council in London, Premier Smith told UK Ministers: “We have to ensure that the OTs’ ability to trade with the EU and other international partners is not impeded by illegitimately, placing us on the EU’s planned list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.  This would restrict OT market access to the EU.”
Ahead of Brexit Negotiation talks with the UK Government, Premier Smith will attend a pre-meeting of OT Leaders where he will push for more OT engagement in the UK Parliament with the Exiting the EU and International Trade Committees in the House of Commons, and related committees in the House of Lords; as well as support the establishment of a structured framework for ongoing engagement between the OTs and UK on Brexit negotiations.
The UK-OT Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations comes at the end of Premier Smith’s successful Presidency of the Political Council of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA), during which time he led efforts to secure the high-level Brexit meetings for the OTs with the UK. 
“One of my key objectives was to ensure that the BVI and other Overseas Territories were strategically positioned for Brexit negotiations in terms of having a forum in which to engage the UK on our priorities and interests so they would be taken into account.  I am proud were able to achieve this”, the Premier said.
Premier Smith also thanked BVI UK Representative, Benito Wheatley for supporting his Presidency as Chair of UKOTA in which he implemented the mandates of the Political Council.
“I was fortunate to have Mr. Wheatley’s support in London as we defended the self-governance and self-determination of the territories, arrived at a settlement of beneficial ownership issue with the UK Government and led efforts to position the Overseas Territories for Brexit negotiations,” he said.   
The BVI maintains an associate status with the EU from which the Territory has benefitted.  Among other things, the EU has funded: a small and medium enterprise project for the Caribbean that has provided invaluable technical support to the BVI’s small businesses; construction at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College of the Culinary Arts Centre, Library, Resource Centre and Eileen L. Parsons Auditorium; construction of the Sage Mountain and Copper Mine Visitor Centres; establishment of an early warning system in the Territory’s extreme weather events; and strengthening of the management and conservation of local beaches and the nearshore environment.
  1. On June 23, 2016 the people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum on EU membership for Britain to leave the European Union.
  2. On January 24, 2017 the UK Supreme Court ruled that the UK Government must seek approval from the UK Parliament to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin official negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU.
  3. On February 1 the House of Commons voted to authorise the UK Government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which entails a two year process with possibility for extension.
  4. Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Theresa May confirmed the UK Government will trigger Article 50 by March 31, 2017.
The BVI maintains an associate status in the EU set out in Part Four of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.  Current cooperation between the BVI and the EU is governed by the Overseas Association Decision (OAD) adopted by the EU in 2013.

BVI Premier Advances Brexit, Financial Services Agenda

Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, has completed meetings of high level ministerial and parliamentary engagement in the United Kingdom. 

The Honourable Premier joined other Overseas Territory (OT) leaders during a courtesy call on Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Theresa May at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday, February 8.

The courtesy call followed the UK-OT Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations on February 7, during which UK Ministers and OT Leaders discussed the potential impacts of Brexit on the Territories. OT Leaders were given the opportunity to discuss their varied priorities for negotiations including freedom of movement, international trade and EU funding.

Premier Smith also attended a series of other meetings including a meeting for OT Leaders on beneficial ownership hosted by Home Office Minister of State for Security and Member of Parliament, Ben Wallace. During the meeting, the BVI's implementation of OT-UK beneficial ownership agreements was recognised as the most advanced in respect to the development of systems to enhance the exchange of information with UK law enforcement authority.

The Premier also met with Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and Member of Parliament, Mark Field to demonstrate the BVI's new state of the art system for exchanging beneficial ownership and further discuss the BVI’s priorities for Brexit negotiations. 

According to Premier Smith, “My engagement with ministers and parliamentarians allowed my delegation to reiterate BVI's priorities for Brexit negotiations for financial services as well as to demonstrate our progress and commitment to sharing and exchanging information with law enforcement." 

Premier Smith added, "I am also encouraged that the UK Government will take into account the views and needs of the OT's."

The Premier’s UK visit is in line with Government’s mandate to strengthen international relationships, in positioning the Virgin Islands for the future.

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