Bermuda says full CARICOM Membership doesn’t guarantee free movement

Bermuda, the British Overseas Territory, which is seeking full membership of the regional integration movement, CARICOM, says it is however not contemplating being part of the region’s attempt to allow for the free movement of nationals across member states from March 31, this year.

“It would be incorrect to conclude that full membership means freedom of movement for citizens of other member states to Bermuda,”  said Premier David Burt, who was among regional leaders who gathered in Guyana last week for their 46th regular summit.

“We recognise that this is a topical matter here at home, and to ensure clarity, freedom of movement does not automatically follow full membership. In fact, it has been stated on numerous occasions that many full members of Caricom do not participate in freedom of movement.

“Furthermore, specific agreements, negotiations and protocols are required, and it is not something the Government of Bermuda is contemplating as Bermuda is too small to have open borders,” Burt said.

The free movement of nationals is part of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the Community.

The Free Movement of Skills/Labour entails the right of a CARICOM national to seek work and/or engage in gainful employment in all CARICOM member states with the exception of The Bahamas, Montserrat, and Haiti without the need to obtain a work permit.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, told a news conference at the end of the CARICOM summit that there are some countries that are not part of the CSME “and if you are not part of the CSME, free movement does not apply to you.

“For those countries that are part of the CSME there are a few countries that have asked for a carve out…essentially carve out in the context of a longer time period before they get to the point of full movement”.

He said that is being discussed and “at this stage it would be premature to name those countries because we are not yet settled that it is their final position that they require a carve out…so I think it would be premature to name them at this stage,” Mitchell told reporters.

But he said CARICOM countries were still committed to meeting the March 31 deadline.

“Essentially we are still sovereign states and the discussion on free movement is really…to remove that six-month limitation that currently exist,” he said, adding “we want to get to a period where that timeline does not apply.

“But we still need to discuss what will be the minimum rights that each citizen of another state will get …,” he added.

The communique issued two days after the end of the summit, noted that the leaders had “agreed on urgent steps to expedite objectives” for a single market.

“These include intensified work towards free movement, speeding up reviews to facilitate harmonisation of certain business laws and mutual recognition,” the communique added.

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