The UK Declines Direct Rule Over British Virgin Islands

Image Credit: iStock, Julie Caron

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This is a story about second chances.

A damning report commissioned by the British government and published in April found widespread corruption in the mostly-autonomous territory of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and called for the suspension of its constitution, the cessation of its elected officials, and the imposition of direct UK rule. But on Wednesday, the United Kingdom’s foreign secretary Liz Truss opted instead to give the territory’s newly reformed government two more years to clean up its politics. We’ll call this a reverse declaration of independence.

Truss the Process

The report, which was commissioned last year, was finally published in April immediately following a US-led sting operation that led to the arrest of BVI’s top government official, premier Andrew Fahie, on charges of money laundering and drug smuggling.

But following Fahie’s arrest, a broad coalition of political actors on the island formed a Government of National Unity, installing a new premier and promising swift action and accountability. Secretary Truss has decided to give them a chance:

  • The BVI’s new leadership deserves the opportunity to “demonstrate their commitment to reform,” Truss said Wednesday, adding they must implement 48 policy recommendations made in April’s report.
  • “The people of the BVI want and deserve change and have made their desire for better governance clear. Elected officials know this,” Truss said. “We want to support the new government in making this change and allow them the opportunity to reform.”

Still, the territory is not out of the woods yet. Truss warned failure to demonstrate change in the next two years could lead to the ultimate imposition of British rule. Sounds like a not-so-modest proposal.