Speaker: Colin Roberts
Senior Advisor, UK Governance Group, Cabinet Office
Date: 19 June 2018
Venue: Guildhall, Gresham Street, London, City of London, EC2V 7HH
Time: 12 noon – Annual General Meeting
12.30 pm till 2.30 pm – Reception and Annual Lunch
Chair: Robert S. Childs,
Chairman of The Bermuda Society, Chairman of Hiscox and Deputy Chairman of Lloyd’s
Synopsis of Colin Roberts’ Speech:
“Bermuda and the Overseas Territories: A View from Whitehall”
The Government has said that the UK is negotiating “on behalf of the whole UK family”. What is this family and what is happening to the relationships between members of the family?
The UK family includes the Devolved Administrations, the Crown Dependencies, the European Overseas Territories (Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus), Bermuda and the other 11 Overseas Territories.
The Overseas Territories branch of the family has consisted of the same members since the handover of Hong Kong. It is an odd mix – difficult to categorise or summarise. Apart from the occasional headline grabbing event (such as the eruption of the Soufriere volcano in Montserrat) the Territories have a fairly low profile in the mind of the UK public, media, parliament and government. Few people could name the 14 Overseas Territories and even fewer could explain their relationship to the UK. Over the years UK Government policy has been characterised by tensions between laissez faire and interventionism, between integration (such as the UK Nationality Act 2002) and divergence. A balance was struck in the 2012 White Paper, which also captured a sense that the UK valued and was proud of these diverse members of the family.
Bermuda flourished in this context, through its own efforts, forging relationships with the US, EU and elsewhere, with very little intervention from the UK.
Since the UK joined the European Community, Bermuda and the other Overseas Territories have developed their own relationships with the EU. Each Territory has a different relationship, although much is covered in a single legal instrument – the Overseas Association Decision. This is highly beneficial to Territories in general, although the value to Bermuda is perhaps less than to some of the others. For Territories like Bermuda, having the UK as a family member in the room when the EU negotiates on tax and financial services matters has been of particular value. This relationship will come to an end when the UK leaves the EU and new relationships will have to be negotiated. The UK and the Territories are considering what the negotiating objectives should be and how to achieve them.
It is natural that at a time like this some are reflecting on the relationships between the various family members. There is already significant constitutional change underway in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill for example as the UK and Devolved Administrations negotiate the transfer of powers from the EU to the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Parliamentary amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill affecting the Overseas Territories have prompted some to call for a review of the way the UK Parliament can legislate for the Territories. It is legitimate to examine these constitutional relationships, but it probably makes sense to do this when the shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU is clear. The UK Government believes that all members of the UK family are stronger together.
After a most interesting speech, the floor was opened for a Q and A session.
19 June 2018
Senior Adviser, UK Governance Group