Premier Craig Cannonier *File photo
Premier Craig Cannonier *File photo

Bermuda could make an eleventh hour decision to sign up to a major tax treaty before the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland next week, Premier Craig Cannonier told the Bermuda Sun today.

Mr Cannonier did not rule out Bermuda joining other Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in signing the treaty — if the island’s concerns were addressed in time.

Mr Cannonier said: “We are concerned about the cost of being able to do this, to have a central database and the security of it and who has access to it and existing treaty declarations — what happens to those agreements?”

Mr Cannonier was speaking from London just before going into a mini-summit with the leaders of the other UK overseas possessions and a day before a head-to-head with UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron wants to travel to the G8 meeting with a full card of signatures to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — EU convention on tax information exchange.

Mr Cannonier said: “We agree with the multi-lateral convention and where it’s going. We agree in moving forward with this, but we need some of our questions answered.

“We have got some answers and tomorrow, when Mr Cameron and I meet face-to-face, we will get the chance to iron out some more of these problems.”

Mr Cannonier declined to give a timetable for Bermuda to join Cayman, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands in agreeing to sign — but he hinted the island could soften its original stance over the weekend.

He said: “It’s been very positive with the answers we are getting, although we can’t go into the details. I am confident we will get this done and that we will be in agreement. Based on the discussions we have had so far, we’re very confident.”

Mr Cannonier added that he was looking forward to the meeting of Overseas Territories and dependencies.

He said: “We have been on the phone several times, but we can share where we feel we differ and where the similarities are and how we move forward.”

And he said that Bermuda — unlike other offshore centres — was a major hub for insurance and reinsurance, rather than banking.

He said: “We are there when catastrophes happen. We are not a banking jurisdiction like the Caymans and the like. We have a great story and a great opportunity — the UK parliamentarians are out there listening, so this has been a good thing.

“I don’t think the treaty was completely thought through on the different jurisdictions and how it would affect them.”

Mr Cannonier took a swipe at some of the overseas press and said some of the interviews were “abrasive”, while others were inaccurate.

But he said international exposure was a good way of promoting Bermuda, the business it does and correcting kneejerk talk of tax havens.