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UK Gov’t rejects report calling for voting changes, same sex marriage in OTs

The United Kingdom Government has rejected contentious recommendations from the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee calling for the imposition of same sex marriages in Overseas Territories and changes to voting rights.

On Sunday (12 May) the Theresa May-led administration made it clear it was not prepared to intervene in domestic matters in its BOTs.

In its response, the UK government said same-sex marriages should be left for the territories to decide.

 It said its relationship with the Overseas Territories is based on partnership and as “policy on marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility it should be for the territories to decide and legislate on.”

It pointed out that, as has been demonstrated by recent LGBT cases, “The Territories’ justice mechanisms and processes should be allowed the space to address these matters. We are working to encourage those Territories that have not put in place arrangements to recognise and protect same sex relationships, to do so, and continue to engage with all the Overseas Territories to ensure that their legislation is compliant with their international human rights obligations.”

“We have no plans to introduce an Order-in-Council on this issue,” the response stated.

The FAC report was released back in February. 

It called for sweeping changes like voting rights for Britons, imposition of same-sex marriages and a return to the imposition of public beneficial ownership registers by 2020.

Last month, during a trip to the UK and Monaco Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin told UK legislators to keep out of local matters in the Cayman Islands. It was a refrain echoed by other BOT leaders on the heels of the FAC report.

The UK government said it had no intention to interfere with locally-determined franchise and representational arrangements.

Voting rights, immigration decisions are “primarily a matter for OT governments,” the response stated.

Premier McLaughlin welcomed the UK government’s response to the report on Sunday saying it’s “a clear-headed restatement of the fundamental principle of self-government that underpins the relationship between Cayman and the UK.”

“I am very pleased that the UK has clearly listened to the representations that I and other OT leaders have made. In the 21st Century, there can be no justification for people 5,000 miles away, most of whom have never even visited these Islands, thinking they know better than we do how we should run our own affairs,” he said in a statement.

The UK Government also said it will be sticking to its 2023 implementation deadline for beneficial ownership registers for BOTs resisting any acceleration of the timetable already set out.

Premier McLaughlin said, “While we in the Cayman Islands and others in the OTs will continue to resist the UK’s attempts to impose public registers upon us in the absence of a global standard, it is positive that the UK Government has pushed back on any suggestion that the current timetable should be accelerated,” he said. 

He said the UK Government’s response “underlines their commitment to developing a positive and constructive relationship with the OT’s,” Mr. McLaughlin said. 

He added that commitment has also been seen in the recent talks over the potential “Constitutional changes that we would like to put in place in order to clarify our relationship. Those negotiations are nearing a conclusion and I hope to be able to report back to the House and to the country shortly on what has been agreed.”

Read the UK Gov’t response:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmfaff/2174/2174.pdf

Read the Premier’s statement:

Premier Welcomes UK Government’s Response

To Foreign Affairs Committee Report

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands – The United Kingdom Government has published its response to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, “Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories”.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin had heavily criticized the Committee’s report when it was published in February.  The Committee’s recommendations on registers of beneficial ownership, same-sex marriage and giving all resident UK citizens the right to vote and hold office were described by the Premier as a “shameless and shameful attempt to reproduce neocolonialism.”

The Premier has welcomed the official UK Government response as “a clear-headed restatement of the fundamental principle of self-government that underpins the relationship between Cayman and the UK.”

On the issue of registers of beneficial ownership, the UK Government response reaffirms the existing understanding of the consultative process to be followed and resists any acceleration of the timetable in advance of the end of 2023.

On same-sex marriage, the UK Government notes the on-going legal action in Cayman but makes clear that the issue “should be one for the territories to decide and legislate on”.  The response confirms that “we have no plans to introduce an Order-in-Council on this issue.”

On the critical issue of voting rights, again the response recognises “the fact that immigration decisions are primarily a matter for OT governments” and makes clear that there is no intention to interfere with locally-determined franchise and representational arrangements.

“I said when the Committee’s report was released that these were only recommendations and that we needed to wait for the UK Government’s official response,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I am very pleased that the UK has clearly listened to the representations that I and other OT leaders have made.  

“In the 21st Century, there can be no justification for people 5,000 miles away, most of whom have never even visited these Islands, thinking they know better than we do how we should run our own affairs,’ he said. “The UK Government’s response thoroughly rejects that idea and I am sure it will be welcomed across the Overseas Territories.

While we in the Cayman Islands and others in the OTs will continue to resist the UK’s attempts to impose public registers upon us in the absence of a global standard, it is positive that the UK Government has pushed back on any suggestion that the current timetable should be accelerated,” he said. “I would like to thank the Governor for the assistance he has provided in representing the views of Cayman back to the UK Government and to ensure that those making the decisions were aware of the grave concern we felt about the Committee’s recommendations.”

“The UK Government’s response underlines their commitment to developing a positive and constructive relationship with the OT’s,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “That commitment has been seen too in the recent talks over the potential Constitutional changes that we would like to put in place in order to clarify our relationship. Those negotiations are nearing a conclusion and I hope to be able to report back to the House and to the country shortly on what has been agreed.”

About the author

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath

Reshma Ragoonath is a Trinidadian journalist with 18 years media experience with a strong background in print with her most recent stint at The Cayman Reporter. She has a BA in Mass Communications, as well as, an Associate degree in Journalism and Public Relations.

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