With the October 31st deadline for the UK to leave the European Union “fast approaching”, Premier David Burt told MPs on Friday that now is the time to “renew their preparation for these events”.
With the new British Prime Minister in place, who has stated his clear intention to take Britain out of the EU, Premier Burt said: “This is especially important where there is the growing likelihood of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
“We’ve all heard of the ongoing preparation for ‘a Post-Brexit Working Group’ to be formed to ‘consider and address’ any issues required to prepare Bermuda.
“As part of Bermuda’s ongoing preparation for this scenario, I have determined strike a Post-Brexit Working Group to consider and address those issues required to prepare Bermuda for the likely post-Brexit scenarios which may obtain in the United Kingdom.”
The group will be headed up by Chairman, Walton Brown and consists of the the following members:
- Trade Union Congress Representative, Opposition Representative, PLP Representative, Business community Representative, Youth Representative, NGO/3rd Sector Representative and Civil servant [ex offico / secretary]
“As part of its remit the Working Group will examine possible responses of Bermuda to any changes in UK relations with OTs including any necessary constitutional change as well as any necessary changes to the existing regime of self-governance presently enjoyed by Bermuda.
“This is new territory, not just for Bermuda but for the world. A European Union without the UK is something that had been often discussed but is now on the cusp of becoming reality,” said Mr Burt.
“This Government recognizes the uncertainty this can bring for Bermudians who live in and travel to the UK and Europe and for those businesses who operate here and in those jurisdictions.
“We have been preparing for some time and our London Office team is actively engaged in the work required to ensure we have the best intelligence to support our policy making. Come what may, Bermuda is well placed to manage the change that Brexit will bring.”
He also told MPs that “HM Treasury has confirmed that Bermuda’s EU Solvency II equivalence will be automatically maintained between Bermuda and the UK after the UK’s departure from the EU; in either a ‘Deal’ or ‘No Deal’ scenario as part of existing EU legislation that is being moved over into domestic UK law upon Brexit”.
“In anticipation of the eventual Brexit scenario, a draft Bill has been prepared by counsel in Chambers and that Bill will address any resultant lacunae in Bermuda law.
“Honourable Members can expect to be invited to consider the Bill when we return in September,” said Mr Burt.
“The full impact of Brexit on Overseas Territories generally and Bermuda in particular is difficult to measure, particularly against the background of the competing and unsettled political interests in the UK.
“Considerations must include the prospect of a snap general election, the potential for a change in the UK Government and therefore its policy towards the OTs. It is therefore proposed to strike a Post-Brexit Working Group to examine these scenarios and prepare Bermuda for eventualities arising out of the post-Brexit UK.”
The Premier also provided MPs with a summary of “considered views” on the impact of a ‘No Deal Brexit’:
- Trade: The UK would revert to World Trade Organisation rules on trade. While Britain would no longer be bound by EU rules, it would have to face the EU’s external tariffs. The price of imported goods in shops for Britons could go up as a result. Some British-made products may be rejected by the EU as new authorisation and certification might be required. Manufacturers could move their operations to the EU to avoid delays in components coming across the border.
- People: The UK would be free to set its own controls on immigration by EU nationals and the bloc could do the same for Britons. There could be long delays at borders if passport and customs checks are heightened.
- Laws: Relevant EU laws would be transferred over so there would be no black holes in Britain’s law book. Britain would no longer have to adhere to the rulings of the European Court of Justice but it would be bound to the European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU body.
- Money: The UK Government would not have to pay the annual £13 billion contribution to the EU budget. However Britain would lose out on some EU subsidies – the Common Agricultural Policy gives £3 billion to farmers. It is likely that both the EU and the UK will have to honour financial commitments under the 2019 budget.
- The Irish border: The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would remain unresolved. While physical infrastructure has been vetoed, the border would become an external frontier for the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There would be pressure to enforce customs and immigration controls. However the UK Government has said it would aim to avoid a hard border and, for a temporary period, there would be no new tariffs on goods crossing the border from Ireland into Northern Ireland.