Delegations from the BOTs arrived in London at the start of this week to attend the Joint Ministerial Council – Exiting the EU Negotiations, hosted by the UK Government.
While the meetings are meant to focus on Brexit, the decision to impose public registers of beneficial ownership on overseas territories is set to be a major part of the agenda.
The delegates have indicated they want to re-address constitutional arrangements with the UK and restrict its ability to legislate for overseas territories.
In May, Cayman Island’s premier Alden McLaughlin said the public register was constitutional overreach and “reminiscent of the worst injustices of a bygone era of colonial despotism”.
British Virgin Islands (BVI) deputy premier Kedrick Pickering, who is leading the jurisdiction’s delegation, said a bi-lateral meeting will also be held with the UK’s minister for overseas territories, Tariq Mahmood Ahmad.
BVI premier Orlando Smith, who is currently leading a delegation in Asia, said he was pleased Pickering was deputising for him at this “crucial” time.
Smith said that while Brexit matters will be discussed during the talks, the constitutional issues raised by the public register “have clearly come to the fore” in recent weeks.
“Given this, we will also discuss this matter and continue to make it clear that not only will we challenge this action but also that we expect a full discussion of our constitutional relationship.
“The threat to our constitutional rights cannot go unchallenged nor can we ignore the potential repercussions of the UK’s exit from the EU,” Smith said.
In early June, the government of the BVI engaged with international law firm Withers to mount a legal challenge against the imposition.
Crown dependencies next?
While the British Overseas Territories meet with UK government officials in London, the two ministers who first tabled the public register amendment to the anti-money laundering bill are planning to travel to the Isle of Man on 18 June.
The crown dependencies were not included in the amendment as there are uncertainties over constitutional arrangements between the jurisdictions and the UK.
However, according a report by Isle of Man Today, Tory MP Andrew Mitchell and Labour MP Margaret Hodge said they would be on the island to push “the case for a public register”.
“We would hope to persuade the Isle of Man authorities that it is a good idea,” Mitchell said.
He said it is inevitable a global standard of public register will happen and the crown dependencies introducing a register would “speed things up”.