REGIONAL: Former AG tells PM stop looking for scapegoats

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(Barbados Today) – Prime Minister Mia Mottley is putting the blame for Barbados’ blacklisting by the European Union (EU) later today, at the feet of the former administration, but a former Attorney General says it’s time Mottley stop with the “immature” blaming of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) for every challenge she faces.

Adriel Brathwaite, Attorney General in the last DLP administration was responding to a statement issued by Mottley yesterday in which she warned the country that within 24 hours the island would be blacklisted by the EU and that she had written German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU president Charles Michel to register Barbados’ strong objection to the move.

Condemning the blacklisting as “wrong” and “disproportionate”, during a political meeting at The Glebe, St George on Sunday, Mottley blamed the last administration, saying the then Government repeatedly refused to answer requests from authorities in North America and Europe for tax information on international business companies that operate from Barbados.

But this afternoon Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY that Government was a continuum and the same legal drafters in the Attorney General’s Chambers and technocrats in the Ministry of International Business that were there in 2018 are there still and are aware of the challenges.

“The Government has been in place from May 2018. This is October 2020. One thing about Government is that there is continuity. The Ministries responsible would have known what needed to be done. So two years after the fact to be blaming the DLP because we did not address the issue makes no sense to me.

“The more fundamental thing is that earlier this year the Attorney General Dale Marshall came out and said that he was concerned that EU and OECD keep moving the goal posts, and I agreed with him at that point in time,” Brathwaite contended.

The former Attorney General added: “Rather than blame the last administration, you need to look at what the issues were. Did we have legislation issues? Were there issues with the structure of our compliance regime and make a determination whether we did all that we could have done at that point.

“The Prime Minister’s approach which is to cast blame back is immature and not well thought out as opposed to looking at the overall framework and maybe she should give way to the Attorney General and the technocrats who have been, on a daily basis, establishing what the issues are or were and what our approach should have been.”

On Sunday night the Prime Minister told those attending the meeting: “There is something called the International Business Sector, and those are companies from outside that come and set up in Barbados. They want to set up here because they believe they can do business here, they believe the country has a lower tax rate, they feel the country is safe, and believe they can get for their workers who have to work here, a quality of life that is sometimes better than in Canada, or New York
or London.”

“Because we have been doing so well with respect to attracting businesses here from the days of Tom Adams right through for the last 40 years, that [the EU] now want to ring-fence, and to stop us from being able to be attractive globally.”

Explaining some background to the issue, the Prime Minister said: “The European Union is adamant that it has the right to blacklist countries — and even that phrase I find offensive. They are now trying to say ‘uncooperative jurisdictions’, but they can’t change the fact that they started with ‘blacklist’.

“Well, I am black, and I am proud, and if you feel that black is negative well, I don’t feel it’s negative. So let’s start from that premise.

“But I want to tell you that we will take a lash on Tuesday, not because of anything done by this Government, not because of anything presided over by Ronald Toppin, but because [of what happened] between 2015, when Freundel [Stuart] was Prime Minister and June 2018 when we became the Government.

“The Cabinet was sworn in on May 27, 2018. How many days between May 27 and June? Four! So that four days after we came to office was the cut-off date.

“And they are now going to give us a lash globally for something not done by this Government, but by the last administration.

“And what is it? The last administration was supposed to answer countries when they say ‘I want information on these people’s taxes, for wherever reason . . . . The Government never answered the people.”

Stressing that international business companies that operated in Barbados for nearly 50 years stood to be affected by the EU’s move, the Prime Minister added: “We will take it, but we will . . . disagree with them. I wrote the Chancellor of Germany again this weekend, and I wrote the President of the EU Charles Michel again this weekend, and in your name I told them that it is wrong and disproportionate. It is like giving a man with a spliff a death sentence or 25 years in prison.”

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