Turks & Caicos – December 10, 2020 – As the Turks and Caicos and other British Overseas Territories (OTs) were layered with messages of commitment from as high up as Prince Charles and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, there came a bombshell decision which caused the UK Minister for the OTs to quit and slam the Foreign Office for abandoning its fiscal promise to countries like TCI.
Baroness Sugg resigned from her junior ministerial role when she learned funding would be cut to .05 percent of gross national income from .07 percent, according to media reports about the explosive development.
Foreign Office Minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has since come under fire. The chancellor however defends that Covid-19 forced the streamlining of funds, saying “spending .07 percent of our national income overseas is difficult to justify to the British people.”
Sunak said there is a commitment to return to the .07 percent once the pandemic loosens its grip on the UK; but his statement raises that age-old argument of how the overseas territories are truly viewed in times of trouble.
Ping-ponging from being a part of the British family to being considered foreigners who benefit from benevolent as opposed to entitled support; the explanation seemed to undermine the message from Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister who on Tuesday spoke to the JMC live from #10 Downing Street, London.
“In spite of everything, of the difficulties we are going through, we remember that we are united by deep ties of kinship and friendship and history and values. We in the UK government are going to make sure we continue to intensify that partnership,” said Johnson who reflected on the impact of climate change and now the public and economic crises of Covid-19.
“Do not forget that the UK is absolutely committed to you, to your futures and to our partnership. As we go forward and recover from this pandemic, we want to make sure that we build back greener and that we look after island economies that are so vulnerable to climate change.”
Prince Charles had a similar communication ahead of talks on the environment, telling OTs of their huge contribution to “our” biodiversity.
With one month to Brexit, a media report explained the UK Government recommitted to JMC member states they will continue to be considered by the European Union for funding of development projects, which is an area of particular concern in the TCI.
A report from the Office of the Premier informs that other areas of concern over the four days of virtual meetings, from November 23-26 were: Constitutional Relationships; Trade; Economic Resilience; Border Security; Prisons and Environmental Protection and Funding.
“During day one of the meetings, Premier Robinson gave a presentation on Border Security, highlighting TCI’s management of illegal migration and human trafficking through its National Security Strategy and multi-sector partnerships including the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police, United States (US) Coast Guard and Bahamas Defence Force. Following the Premier’s presentation, a roundtable discussion ensued to outline further border security challenges experienced around the region and a full outline of the UK funded Border Security Programme.”
Before her abrupt departure, Baroness Sugg invited Premier Robinson to speak – on day two – to the impact of COVID-19 on the Turks and Caicos Islands Economy and TCI’s short, medium and long term plans in response to the pandemic.
The Premier’s Office informed: “During day three of the meeting, the Premier made a third presentation on Her Majesty’s Prison highlighting the TCI Government’s investment in the redevelopment, management and hiring and training of staff at the facility. The Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force and the UK Government has lent their support in physical manpower and funding, in partnership with the TCI Government which has in the National Budget allocated funding to fulfill much needed upgrades to the facility.
Leaders heard from His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as the Minister for the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Baroness Sugg.”
The Premier was joined by His Excellency Nigel Dakin, TCI Governor; Ronlee James, Executive Director for the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs and Tracy Knight and Kimo Tynes, UK Representatives for the TCI Government London Office.
Turks and Caicos Government Ministers joined during sessions which discussed matters pertaining to their respective Ministries.
The Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) is usually held in London, however on account of the pandemic, the meetings were held virtually.
Originally published in the Magnate; our brand new E-newspaper. Want it every morning? Contact Deandrea Hamilton: 649-231-9261. We are the News Leader.