Brexit and Bermuda: is it time to revive the debate about Independence?

The Royal Gazette has recently reported that Bermuda’s Minister of Finance, Bob Richards MP, has expressed a personal view (i.e. not the Bermuda Government’s collective or current view) that Independence might be a question worth re-visiting in Bermuda at some stage in the future, if the UK’s Brexit from the EU leads to unsatisfactory outcomes for Bermuda as a British Overseas Territory and an international financial centre.

Bob Richards is quoted by the newspaper as follows:

My view is that if the external situation affecting Bermuda should change, so that our way of life and business and our ability to feed ourselves is threatened by UK policies, whether inside or outside Europe, then I would not hesitate to go for independence. It’s our duty to protect Bermudians.”

While Mr Richards is reported to have said that Bermuda was “a long way” from such a drastic move, he is also said to have noted that tides could turn. “Up until recently, we have been in a sweet spot where our business partners feel comfortable. We’re English speaking, we have the rule of British law, and with relatively low taxation. It’s our role as Government to keep us in that sweet spot.”

For the full story, see: http://www.royalgazette.com/politics/article/20160916/independence-idea-revived-amid-brexit

It is worth noting that Bermuda held a Referendum in August 1995 (just over 21 years ago). On a voter turnout of 58.8%, 73.6% of the voting electorate voted against Independence, and only 25.7% voted in favour (leading to the resignation of Sir John Swan as the Premier of Bermuda). For more background, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bermudian_independence_referendum,_1995

In July 2015, a poll was published that suggested that, consistently with the 1995 vote, about 73% of Bermudian voters continued to be opposed to Independence: http://bernews.com/2015/07/poll-72-7-oppose-independence-bermuda/

But that was before the UK’s Brexit Referendum, and with Scotland now actively debating the pros and cons of a second Independence Referendum, it would be surprising if politicians, journalists, and voters in Bermuda, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown Dependencies did not feel compelled to revisit the issue periodically over the next few years, notwithstanding the uncertainties that this might cause.

For the time being, however, most Bermudian comments on the issue of Brexit appear to be of the “Keep Calm and Carry On“, or the “Wait and See” variety. See, for example:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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