Bermuda is on the European Union’s blacklist. Our excuses are chilling, to say the least, and at each and every turn Bermuda has responded either in denial or by taking tepid responsibility for the blunders.
When the EU called an emergency parliamentary session to debate the Paradise Papers in December 2017, I flagged it up and stated to Bermuda: “Please take note, this is very, very serious; we have been condemned by the European Union parliament.”
I advocated over and over again for the Government of Bermuda to move swiftly on this issue and, finally, after 15 months the Brussels Office has opened.
But please do not expect immediate miracles on the heels of the blacklist because relationships in Brussels have to be built, and even with the amendments to our legislation as required by Brussels, it will still need to be approved. Then the next logical step in this saga is, when will the meeting of the ministers responsible for delisting Bermuda be due to convene and make their determination?
The Government states that is in the month of May, but it could take as long as next year because May is when EU parliamentary elections will be held. Additionally, Brexit’s Article 50 has just been extended until June 30 by the House of Commons; and those two matters take priority positions on the EU agenda.
New Members of European Parliament will have to settle in and the extension to Article 50 will go through renegotiation between Theresa May and the Democratic Unionist Party, Labour, the European Research Group, the Scottish and Welsh parliamentarians, including minor splintered political parties, and then between May and Brussels before the next phase of Brexit begins.
A new referendum has been ruled out by Parliament, so it is still a no-deal Brexit, May’s deal, renegotiated terms of her deal, or a General Election. And somewhere down the line. May could be pressured into resignation. The political waters in Britain are potentially very ruinous.
Nothing to do with Bermuda, but where does that put Bermuda? Not in pole position on the EU’s agenda.
But while on the EU blacklist, it is time for the financial services sector to extricate itself from its partnership with the Bermuda Government. Why? Because the Government no longer has the legitimate authority and/or right to be in any EU member state city conducting business.
Now the financial services sector needs to protect its interests by putting its own private watchdog in place, ie, someone who can work exclusively on its behalf to protect its interests seamlessly in Europe and beyond.
A person who understands the political, diplomatic, economic and social agendas of the single market, yet who will give you — the financial services sector — the facts and solid answers to ensure that your businesses weather this era of turbulence, and not political spin.
Because despite the Bermuda Government having offices in London and now Brussels, will economic growth stem from London and/or any EU city while Bermuda is on this blacklist?
Note, the wake-up call is that our politicians lacked the confidence and political finesse to appear before the Foreign Affairs Committee in London when invited. Thus, the House of Commons will not put its reputation and power behind Bermuda when we are too shaky to give them clarity. They will not fight for Bermuda with one arm tied behind their backs because transparency is key to understanding just what they are fighting to protect on Bermuda’s behalf.
Bermuda lacks statesmen and women, so you need to create and nominate a key person and position that is accountable to your interests exclusively.
You need to take the lead and usher in a new cultural and ethical mindset because the political environment in Bermuda has failed to do so.
• Valirie Marcia Akinstall is a Bermudian media law expert who lives in London