Bermuda’s Premier, David Burt, met with the UK Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon at the Cabinet Office earlier today (April 25), marking his first official visit to the island.
Speaking after the meeting with the Premier, he quelled objections to the recent report that recommended that the right to vote be extended to Britons and other UK nationals resident in Overseas Territories like Bermuda.
First and foremost, he said the ability to vote was a matter best dealt with by the Bermuda Government. He also noted that the Foreign Affairs Committee “is not part of Her Majesty’s government”.
“One shouldn’t be alarmist about these issues — it’s a recommendation of a committee. And like all recommendations of the committee the UK Government looks at those recommendations and will respond accordingly,” said Lord Ahmad.
“There will be an official response in due course.”
The report by Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories committee said: “While we recognise that the OTs are small communities with unique cultural identities, we do not accept that there is any justification to deny legally resident British Overseas Territory and UK citizens the right to vote and to hold elected office.
“This elevates one group of British people over another and risks undermining the ties that bind the UK and the OTs together in one global British family.”
The recommendation was one of 14 in the report, which also covered same-sex marriage laws, public beneficial ownership registries and other issues.
During the meeting, Premier Burt said that they discussed passports, which are now printed in the UK, economic substance regulations, child protection and the controversial issue of public registers of beneficial ownership.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, Lord Ahmad said the UK’s position was clear.
“We have legislated for that within the UK,” he said.
“In terms of the matter here in Bermuda, I know that is something which is going through due legal process, and I think that has to be respected.
“The United Kingdom’s position on this is very clear, and we will continue to stress that in all our bilateral discussions as I did this morning with Premier Burt,” he added.
On Bermuda’s relationship with the UK, he said: “It is valued, it is one we respect, and one of which is steeped in history.
“I also believe there is a very positive future and progress to be made in developing that relationship.”
Lord Ahmad also had the opportunity to visit the statue of Sally Bassett on the Cabinet Office Grounds, and after their meeting they hosted a news conference.
- Photos Courtesy of Department of Communications