25TH OCTOBER 2022
PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. HON. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
UPDATE ON NATIONAL AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
I would like to update this Honourable House on national and political developments in the United Kingdom (UK) that we here the Virgin Islands must pay close attention to as a British Overseas Territory (BOT).
First, Madam Speaker, you will recall the passing of her late Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II of blessed memory. Upon her passing, His Majesty the King, Charles III, ascended the throne and became Head of State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the other realms, including the Overseas Territories. He also became the Head of the Commonwealth. We of course wish him well in executing his duties.
There is also new political leadership in the UK. Earlier today, The Rt. Honourable Rishi Sunak MP was appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He replaces Rt. Hon. Liz Truss after a short stint in office. I congratulate Prime Minister Sunak on his appointment and wish him every success in office. He and his new Cabinet have many pressing issues to address, including regaining the confidence of the British people and the financial markets, and addressing the UK’s cost-of-living crisis and energy crisis. I am confident the UK will find its way out of its current circumstances in due course.
In terms of the UK’s relationship with the OTs, the Minister of State for the Americas at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Rt. Hon. Jesse Norman MP is the new Overseas Territories Minister. He replaced Rt. Hon. Amanda Milling MP with whom I had established a good working relationship. Last month I had the opportunity to informally meet Minister Norman. Our exchange was warm and friendly. I look forward to engaging with him again this Thursday when he visits the Territory. Among other things, we will discuss the progress of reform and strengthening the economic resilience of the Territory.
Madam Speaker, it is also important to inform this Honourable House that in a little less than two weeks, I will attend the upcoming Joint Ministerial Council in London between OT Political Leaders and UK Ministers. We will discuss issues such as constitutional development, sanctions, economic management, climate change and other environmental matters. Of course, I will be advancing the interests of the Virgin Islands and raising issues of interest and concern. I am very pleased that the Minister of Health and Social Development Hon. Marlon Penn will be accompanying me.
A key diplomatic objective of the Government of National Unity is to build a new modern partnership with the UK that supports the aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands. While there are many areas from which the Virgin Islands can benefit from closer cooperation with the UK, it does not mean that we will agree on everything. This is to be expected between partners. The key is to achieve the right balance of interests between the UK and Virgin Islands as we work together. In this regard, it is very important that both sides pursue their interests in a constructive and diplomatic manner and make best efforts to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes.
This is why I will be discussing with Minister Norman the Order in Council in reserve that can suspend our constitution. It is not consistent with a modern partnership based on trust and mutual respect, nor does it support the aspirations of the people of the Virgin Islands.
We want a genuine partnership with the UK. Not one that is held back by coercion. I am confident that we can build a new modern partnership, but both sides must act in good faith and be true to democracy.
Madam Speaker, I look forward to updating this Honourable House at a later date on the outcome of the Joint Ministerial Council and any other developments concerning the UK.